There’s only one place where you can get clones, time travel, simulated realities, irradiated and irritated giant lizards, and space fights and beyond. (Maybe not all at once, but we can dream.) Anything’s possible in this creative nebula known as science fiction, and with its long and historic association with cinema, we present our choices of the greatest science-fiction movies ever: The 150 Essential Sci-Fi Movies!
As they do with horror, filmmakers use science fiction to reflect our aspirations, terrors, and issues of the times. Through genre lens, we can consider our impact on the environment (Godzilla, WALL-E), technology gone berserk (The Terminator, Ex Machina), identity (Blade Runner, The Matrix), and societal breakdowns (Children of Men, A Clockwork Orange). We might even check-in on the current state of the human condition (Gattaca, Her).
Or, maybe we just want to see giant ants wreak havoc across the neighborhood. There may not be a lot of subtext in a big monster movie like Them!, or even crowd-pleasing masterpieces like Star Wars or Back to the Future, but they speak to the one thing that attracts us to movies in the first place: escapism. Science-fiction movies are our tickets to planets far-away (Star Trek, Avatar, Starship Troopers), or a quick hop to a local joint in the solar system (The Martian, Total Recall). They take us just above the atmosphere (Gravity), deep down to the bottom of the ocean (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Abyss), and into the human body (Fantastic Voyage). Limited only 2020by imagination, sci-fi inspires wonder, awe, terror, and hope for alternative mindsets and better futures.
Sci-fi spreads across subgenres, all represented here: the monster movie (Cloverfield), space opera (Serenity), cyberpunk (Ghost in the Shell), and post-apocalyptic (Mad Max: Fury Road) and more. Or it can fuse onto traditional genres like drama (Donnie Darko, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), comedy (Repo Man, Idiocracy), and action (Predator, Demoliton Man). Wherever the destination, these movies — each with at least 20 reviews — were selected because of their unique, fun, and possibly even mind-blowing spins on reality.
It’s time to strap in and cue the Theremin for some of the best science-fiction films created: Time to launch the 150 Essential Sci-Fi Movies!
Critics Consensus:Annihilation backs up its sci-fi visual wonders and visceral genre thrills with an impressively ambitious -- and surprisingly strange -- exploration of challenging themes that should leave audiences pondering long after the end credits roll.
Synopsis: Lena, a biologist and former soldier, joins a mission to uncover what happened to her husband inside Area X --... [More]
Critics Consensus:Contact elucidates stirring scientific concepts and theological inquiry at the expense of satisfying storytelling, making for a brainy blockbuster that engages with its ideas, if not its characters.
Synopsis: In this Zemeckis-directed adaptation of the Carl Sagan novel, Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) races to interpret a possible message... [More]
Critics Consensus: Remixing Roger Corman's B-movie by way of the Off-Broadway musical, Little Shop of Horrors offers camp, horror and catchy tunes in equal measure -- plus some inspired cameos by the likes of Steve Martin and Bill Murray.
Synopsis: Meek flower shop assistant Seymour (Rick Moranis) pines for co-worker Audrey (Ellen Greene). During a total eclipse, he discovers an... [More]
Critics Consensus: The epitome of so-bad-it's-good cinema, Plan 9 From Outer Space is an unintentionally hilarious sci-fi "thriller" from anti-genius Ed Wood that is justly celebrated for its staggering ineptitude.
Synopsis: Residents of California's San Fernando Valley are under attack by flying saucers from outer space. The aliens, led by Eros... [More]
Critics Consensus: It doesn't fulfill the potential of its ambitious themes, butSilent Running stands as a decidedly unique type of sci-fi journey marked by intimate character work and a melancholic mood.
Synopsis: After the end of all botanical life on Earth, ecologist Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern) maintains a greenhouse on a space... [More]
Critics Consensus: Steven Spielberg's adaptation of War of the Worlds delivers on the thrill and paranoia of H.G. Wells' classic novel while impressively updating the action and effects for modern audiences.
Synopsis: Dockworker Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) struggles to build a positive relationship with his two children, Rachel (Dakota Fanning) and Robbie... [More]
Critics Consensus:The Fountain -- a movie about metaphysics, universal patterns, Biblical symbolism, and boundless love spread across one thousand years -- is visually rich but suffers from its own unfocused ambitions.
Synopsis: A man (Hugh Jackman) travels through time on a quest for immortality and to save the woman (Rachel Weisz) he... [More]
Critics Consensus: Danny Boyle continues his descent into mind-twisting sci-fi madness, taking us along for the ride. Sunshine fulfills the dual requisite necessary to become classic sci-fi: dazzling visuals with intelligent action.
Synopsis: In the not-too-distant future, Earth's dying sun spells the end for humanity. In a last-ditch effort to save the planet,... [More]
Critics Consensus: Employing gritty camerawork and evocative sound effects, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a powerful remake that expands upon themes and ideas only lightly explored in the original.
Synopsis: This remake of the classic horror film is set in San Francisco. Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) assumes that when a... [More]
Critics Consensus:A Quiet Place artfully plays on elemental fears with a ruthlessly intelligent creature feature that's as original as it is scary -- and establishes director John Krasinski as a rising talent.
Synopsis: If they hear you, they hunt you. A family must live in silence to avoid mysterious creatures that hunt by... [More]
Critics Consensus: Fueled by bombastic violence and impressive special effects, rooted in self-satire and deadpan humor, Dredd 3D does a remarkable job of capturing its source material's gritty spirit.
Synopsis: Mega City One is a vast, violent metropolis where felons rule the streets. The only law lies with cops called... [More]
Critics Consensus: Though perhaps not as strong dramatically as it is technologically, TRON is an original and visually stunning piece of science fiction that represents a landmark work in the history of computer animation.
Synopsis: When talented computer engineer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) finds out that Ed Dillinger (David Warner), an executive at his company,... [More]
Critics Consensus: Richard Kelly's debut feature Donnie Darko is a daring, original vision, packed with jarring ideas and intelligence and featuring a remarkable performance from Jake Gyllenhaal as the troubled title character.
Synopsis: In a funny, moving and distinctly mind-bending journey through suburban America, one extraordinary but disenchanted teenager is about to take... [More]
Critics Consensus: A faithful adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel, A Scanner Darkly takes the viewer on a visual and mind-blowing journey into the author's conception of a drug-addled and politically unstable world.
Synopsis: In the near future, as America virtually loses the war on drugs, Robert Arctor, a narcotics cop in Orange County,... [More]
Critics Consensus: The utterly gorgeous special effects frequently overshadow the fact that The Abyss is also a totally gripping, claustrophobic thriller, complete with an interesting crew of characters.
Synopsis: Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio are formerly married petroleum engineers who still have some issues to work out. They... [More]
Critics Consensus: Led by Rupert Wyatt's stylish direction, some impressive special effects, and a mesmerizing performance by Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes breathes unlikely new life into a long-running franchise.
Synopsis: Will Rodman (James Franco), a scientist in San Francisco, is experimenting with a drug that he hopes will cure his... [More]
Critics Consensus: Featuring dazzling, disorienting cinematography from the great James Wong Howe and a strong lead performance by Rock Hudson, Seconds is a compellingly paranoid take on the legend of Faust.
Synopsis: Banker Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) gets a call one day from a friend he thought was dead. It turns out... [More]
Critics Consensus: Though it's dated in spots, The War of the Worlds retains an unnerving power, updating H.G. Wells' classic sci-fi tale to the Cold War era and featuring some of the best special effects of any 1950s film.
Synopsis: Scientist Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) and Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson) are the first to arrive at the site of... [More]
Critics Consensus: Smart, thrilling, and surprisingly funny, The Martian offers a faithful adaptation of the bestselling book that brings out the best in leading man Matt Damon and director Ridley Scott.
Synopsis: When astronauts blast off from the planet Mars, they leave behind Mark Watney (Matt Damon), presumed dead after a fierce... [More]
Critics Consensus:Interstellar represents more of the thrilling, thought-provoking, and visually resplendent filmmaking moviegoers have come to expect from writer-director Christopher Nolan, even if its intellectual reach somewhat exceeds its grasp.
Synopsis: In Earth's future, a global crop blight and second Dust Bowl are slowly rendering the planet uninhabitable. Professor Brand (Michael... [More]
Critics Consensus: Propelled by Charlie Kaufman's smart, imaginative script and Michel Gondry's equally daring directorial touch, Eternal Sunshine is a twisty yet heartfelt look at relationships and heartache.
Synopsis: After a painful breakup, Clementine (Kate Winslet) undergoes a procedure to erase memories of her former boyfriend Joel (Jim Carrey)... [More]
Critics Consensus: Playing as both an exciting sci-fi adventure and a remarkable portrait of childhood, Steven Spielberg's touching tale of a homesick alien remains a piece of movie magic for young and old.
Synopsis: After a gentle alien becomes stranded on Earth, the being is discovered and befriended by a young boy named Elliott... [More]
Critics Consensus: Gripping, well-acted, funny, and clever, Edge of Tomorrow offers entertaining proof that Tom Cruise is still more than capable of shouldering the weight of a blockbuster action thriller.
Synopsis: When Earth falls under attack from invincible aliens, no military unit in the world is able to beat them. Maj.... [More]
Critics Consensus: T2 features thrilling action sequences and eye-popping visual effects, but what takes this sci-fi/ action landmark to the next level is the depth of the human (and cyborg) characters.
Synopsis: In this sequel set eleven years after "The Terminator," young John Connor (Edward Furlong), the key to civilization's victory over... [More]
Critics Consensus: Misunderstood when it first hit theaters, the influence of Ridley Scott's mysterious, neo-noir Blade Runner has deepened with time. A visually remarkable, achingly human sci-fi masterpiece.
Synopsis: Deckard (Harrison Ford) is forced by the police Boss (M. Emmet Walsh) to continue his old job as Replicant Hunter.... [More]
Critics Consensus: One of the most influential of all sci-fi films -- and one of the most controversial -- Stanley Kubrick's 2001 is a delicate, poetic meditation on the ingenuity -- and folly -- of mankind.
Synopsis: An imposing black structure provides a connection between the past and the future in this enigmatic adaptation of a short... [More]
With John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum unleashed into theaters last week– and currently sitting pretty, and bloody, at 88% on the Tomatometer, with John Wick: Chapter 4just announced – we wanted to know which action movie franchises have the highest Tomatometer averages ever. So, we did a deep Tomatometer dive into over 80 action franchises and found 12 Fresh series that punched, kicked, and sprinted their way ahead of the pack.
Since John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is the third film in the Wick saga, we decided to focus on action franchises with at least three Tomatometer-rated films that told a continuous story. We split up the Spider-Man, Planet of the Apes, James Bond,and Batman franchises into chunks, as they had multiple directors, reboots, and often happened in different universes. For example, we looked at the Sean Connery Bond films as a separate entity from the Daniel Craig Bond films, and the Christopher Nolan Batman films as separate from the 1980s and ’90s movies; we did however include Fury Road with the original Mad Max trilogy, as it centers on the same Max – albeit played by a different actor – and is directed by George Miller. Also: sci-fi, fantasy, and animated films were out; superhero flicks were in.
Basically, we were hoping for an eclectic list and we got one!
Will Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy be ranked higher than Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones franchise? Can any action franchise defeat Miller’s Mad Max quartet? How in the hell is Mission Impossible not on this list?! (Sorry, blame the just Fresh first Mission Impossible, and the Rotten Mission Impossible 2.) Check out the list below and let us know which action franchises you love in the comments.
In 2008, the Jon Favreau-directed Iron Man became a smash hit that was beloved by critics and audiences alike. The 93% Tomatometer-rated film featured Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, a “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” who becomes the superhero Iron Man, and it kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, it’s significant. Less significant, though still very well regarded, are the movie’s two Certified Fresh follow-ups: Iron Man 2, also directed by Favreau, and Shane Black’s Iron Man 3. The sequels couldn’t recapture the Tomatometer heights of the first film, but they were box office blockbusters – Iron Man 3 is the seventh highest-grossing MCU movie, just behind Captain Marvel – with high enough Tomatometer scores to land the franchise at the 12th spot on our list.
With all the superhero films that have been released since 2002, it’s easy to forget how popular Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy was in the 2000s. In 2002, the 90% Tomatometer-rated Spider-Man was a massive success that cleared $100 million in its opening weekend (which was huge at the time) and introduced us to Tobey Maguire’s amazingly earnest take on the popular web-slinger. It was followed up by the 93% Tomatometer-rated Spider-Man 2, which is one of the most critically beloved sequels of all time. The franchise took a bit of dip in 2007, with Spider-Man 3 – OK, a “bit” might be understating it. However, its Fresh score of 63% was just enough to ensure its placement in this list. Cue dancing Emo Spidey!
An action movie list without a Jackie Chan film wouldn’t feel right. Kicking off in 1985, Chan directed Police Story, which introduced the world to Sergeant Chan Ka-Kui (Chan), an incredibly likable and athletic cop who engages in the greatest shopping mall fight ever. The acclaimed Police Story 2 (92% on the Tomatometer) was also a huge success and featured the greatest playground fight ever (are you sensing a trend?). Basically, the four core Police Story movies starring Jackie Chan feature all-time great action scenes – made great because of the brilliance of Chan and his commitment to hurting himself to entertain audiences. (Note, while Supercop was released in 1992, it didn’t get a theatrical release in the U.S. until 1996.)
Bond. Sean Connery’s James Bond. The action world was changed forever when Dr. No was released in 1962. The movie, Certified Fresh at 96%, was an adaptation of Ian Fleming’s spy novel and the first to feature Sean Connery as the smooth-talking badass who traveled the world, killed with ease, and wooed way too many women. Peaking with the classic 97% Tomatometer-rated Goldfinger, Connery’s six Bond films set a new standard for action in the 1960s, shooting on location around the world and featuring a “hero” who had a literal license to kill.
Many non-action film fans may only know Ip Man star Donnie Yen from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, XXX: Return of Xander Cage, or Blade 2. However, Yen is an action icon who has been hurting onscreen henchmen since the early 1990s. That’s why it’s awesome to include on this list the Wilson Yip-directed Ip Man franchise, which tells the story of Ip Man, the famous martial artist who mentored Bruce Lee and is considered the grandfather of the Kung Fu hybrid Wing Chun. The trilogy of films have allowed Yen to engage in some truly wicked brawls that showcase his martial arts prowess and ability to learn an insane amount of fight choreography. (Note, we are not including this year’s, Master Z: Ip Man legacy, as it does not feature Yen and is a spin-off set in the same universe rather than directly part of the series.)
We know many people think Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the fourth entry in the Indiana Jones franchise, nuked the goodwill of the original trilogy. However, its Certified Fresh 78% Tomatometer score got the franchise to swing into the top 10 where it deserves to be — so it’s not all bad. Harrison Ford’s portrayal of the archaeologist who spends his days teaching college students and weekends globetrotting to deadly locations in hunt of ancient artifacts, still feels fresh and full of charm. It also helps that Steven Spielberg directed all four movies and loaded them with action-packed set pieces, memorable characters, and some very twisted moments – yes, this is a family flick featuring hearts being pulled from people’s chests.
The Avengers franchise made the pointy end of the list because of the two critically beloved blockbusters that bookend the franchise. Joss Whedon’s Marvel’s The Avengers, 92% on the Tomatometer,was a massive blockbuster that proved a movie featuring the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s mightiest heroes could be funny, surprising, and most importantly, capable of giving every superhero a moment to shine (except for the zombie Hawkeye thing). Most recently, the Russos-directed Avengers: Endgame pulled off an equally impressive feat by giving what feels like 7,000 characters something to do in a narrative that makes logical sense. And it’s the highest-rated movie in the franchise, Certified Fresh at 95%.
5. Captain America (2011 – 2016)
(Photo by @ Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, @ Marvel Studios)
The Captain America franchise kicked off in 2012 with the Certified Fresh Captain America: The First Avenger, 80% on the Tomatometer. The Joe Johnston-directed superhero origin story struck a chord with audiences who loved its nostalgic vibe – Johnston directed The Rocketeer and it showed – and lead performance by Chris Evans. But, it wasn’t until 2014 that the Russo brothers’ Captain America: The Winter Soldier (90% on the Tomatometer) propelled the franchise into the critical elite. The Russos struck gold again in 2016 with the Captain America: Civil War; its Tomatometer score of 91% makes Captain America the only superhero franchise to have its Tomatometer score improve with each installment.
Much like the immortal Keanu Reeves, the John Wick franchise keeps getting better with age. Kicking off in 2014, the 86% Tomatometer-rated John Wick introduced the world to an unstoppable assassin who wiped out hundreds of well-groomed henchman in his quest to get revenge on the people who killed his adorable puppy. His quest for revenge lead him to the 89% and 88%-Tomatometer rated John Wick: Chapter 2 and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, which also feature him killing hundreds of well-groomed henchman and assassins who want him dead. Guided by director Chad Stahelski (and co-director David Leitch for the first film), the trilogy has remained incredibly consistent, and we’re hoping the duo of Stahelski and Reeves keeps up the high-scoring work when Chapter 4 is released in 2021.
OK, so we’re bending the “no sci-fi” rule here a touch, given the technology to enhance apes’ intelligence doesn’t yet exist. But, aside from that, this series is kept relatively grounded (or, at least, tree-bound). Director Rupert Wyatt kicked off the Apes reboot trilogy with Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), which set up the heroic journey of Caesar (another incredible performance-capture performance from Andy Serkis). The successful prequel/reboot was followed up by the even more successful Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (90%) and War for the Planet of the Apes (93%), which continued Caesar’s story, and gave thousands of visual effects artists plenty of work. Matt Reeves directed the two later films, and his insistence of shooting at actual locations, instead of sound stages, made the films look authentic, real, and dangerous. Between the large battles, incredible CGI and committed performances, this trilogy was an inventive, action-packed surprise.
*The Dark Knight Trilogy and the Rise of the Planet of the Apes Trilogy both have 88.3% Tomatometer averages. The Dark Knight Trilogy has a higher ranking because it has more reviews (967 > 897).
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy is the highest Tomatometer-rated superhero franchise ever – impressive, considering expectations were low for 2005’s Batman Begins after Batman & Robin put a freeze on the franchise in 1997. However, DC fans and audiences soon learned that Nolan was the right person to guide Batman through three films that took on a grittier tone, featured beautiful cinematography, and gave the world an all-time-great performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Ledger’s portrayal won him a posthumous Academy Award in 2009 and helped people realize that superhero movies could also be taken ‘so serious.’
George Miller’s Mad Max trilogy featuring Mel Gibson as the titular Max, is a perfect example of a handmade action franchise. The mayhem in the Mad Max world felt primal (and feral), which is a testament to Miller’s direction and a fearless crew who didn’t mind blowing up dozens of vehicles. If you haven’t seen Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Certified Fresh at 98%, we totally recommend it. Why? Not only is it the highest Tomatometer-rated movie featured in this entire list, it also features one of the greatest vehicular chase scenes ever made.
Let us know about you favorite action movie franchises in the comments! Also, how in the heck is the Blade trilogy Rotten?
With 2017 soon coming to a close, many TV series are going on hiatus, while the big holiday blockbusters are giving way to winter’s slimmer cinematic pickings. Thankfully, a number of new and upcoming video games are inviting fans to continue living — and playing — in their favorite fictional worlds.
Developer: BonusXP Publisher: Netflix Systems: App Store Release Date: October 4, 2017
Stranger Things has been renewed for a third season, but we’d rather spend a night in the Upside Down than wait a full year for fresh episodes to drop. Thankfully, we can visit our favorite fictional Midwestern town any time in this charming adventure game based on the Netflix hit. Sporting an appealing retro presentation, which nicely complements the series’ mid-’80s vibe, Stranger Things: The Game features fan-favorite characters, familiar Hawkins locations, and enough nods to the show to stretch a smile across Hopper’s miserable mug.
Developer: Turbine Publisher: WB Games Systems: App Store, Google Play Release Date: October 19, 2017
With just a single season left, HBO’s Game of Thrones is about to see winter come…and go. Fans needn’t be left in the cold though, as this strategy-focused mobile game encourages them to continue living out their Seven Kingdoms–conquering fantasies on their tablets and smartphones. With a few taps, swipes, and plenty of smarts, players can claim a house, build an army, and, with a little luck, ultimately place their butts on that coveted Iron Throne.
Developer: Asobo Studio Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios Systems: Xbox One Release Date: October 31, 2017
Fans of Coco can’t yet play a game based on Pixar‘s popular new film, but Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure may be the next best thing. Originally released for the Xbox 360’s ill-fated, hands-free Kinect peripheral, Rush — featuring challenges based on Toy Story, Cars, Up, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille — failed to find an audience its first time out. Re-released with improved controls, enhanced visuals, and brand-new Finding Dory content, however, this family-friendly offering deserves a second shot.
Developer: Kalypso Media Publisher: Kalypso Media Systems: App Store, Google Play Release Date: November 2, 2017
Much like the fall movie Murder on the Orient Express — minus Kenneth Branagh’s epic facial hair — this story-driven, interactive adventure presents players with a central murder mystery and a quirky cast of possible suspects. Rather than simply watching the case-cracking events unfold, however, armchair detectives can decipher codes, solve puzzles, gather clues, and interrogate potential perpetrators. As investigative reporter Heidi Price, players also collect and piece together these various strands of evidence while exploring 17 unique locations spread throughout the titular locomotive.
Developer: Lenovo/Disney Publisher: Disney Systems: Lenovo Mirage AR Headset Release Date: November 3, 2017
While Star Wars Battlefront II is generating all kinds of buzz, it’s not the only recent game attempting to immerse players in the popular sci-fi saga. Star Wars: Jedi Challenges uses the power of the Force — er, augmented reality — to put fans behind a lightsaber replica before unleashing them on Sith foes. While not your traditional controller-clutching experience, Jedi Challenges — with its included AR headset, tracking beacon, and elegant Jedi weapon — puts fans in a galaxy far, far away like no game before it.
Developer: Creative England Publisher: 20th Century Fox Systems: PlayStation 4 Release Date: November 21, 2017
Unfolding between the events of Dawn of Planet of the Apes and War for Planet of the Apes, this narrative adventure game puts fans behind both the surviving humans and their primate adversaries. As a new cast of characters on both sides of the conflict, players can decide the fate of the two camps through story-driven, choice-and-consequence gameplay. With the recent Apes trilogy coming to a close, Last Frontier looks to extend fans’ stay in this compelling fictional universe.
Developer: Koukoi Games Publisher: FoxNext Games Systems: App Store, Google Play Release Date: November 30, 2017
The familiar match-three mobile puzzle game formula gets a fresh spin courtesy of Ferdinand, the titular dancing bull from the John Cena–starring animated film. Sporting a pop-off-the-screen presentation and a focus on music and dance, Ferdinand: Unstoppabull packs hundreds of levels featuring the film’s quirky cast of anthropomorphs, including a trio of scene-stealing hedgehogs. If you can get past the title’s terrible pun, this one might provide your next puzzle-game addiction.
Developer: Telltale Games Publisher: Telltale Games Systems: PlayStation 4, Xbox One Release Date: December 5, 2017
If you’ve already survived this interactive, narrative-focused take on Robert Kirkman’s flesh-eating franchise, you’re aware its writing often rivals — and frequently surpasses — that of the TV show. If you’re yet to experience this goosebumps-raising romp, however, you can now consume all 19 episodes of its character-driven, choice-and-consequence gameplay in one content-packed collection. On top of all three seasons, plus the 400 Days– and Michonne-focused spin-offs, this comprehensive offering features a fresh coat of visual polish.
Developer: Creative Mobile/FoxNext Games Publisher: FoxNext Games Systems: App Store, Google Play, Facebook Release Date: Early 2018
Even moreso than the ever-elusive truth, 2016’s X-Files revival proved rabid fans of the paranormal series are still out there. With that in mind, 20th Century Fox’s interactive entertainment arm is extending the universe with Deep State, a title taking place between the show’s 9th and 10th seasons. As a new FBI agent, players will collect clues, crack puzzles, and interact with unsavory characters. In addition to ongoing, updated content — of both the mythology and monster-of-the-week variety — Deep State will feature appearances from fan-favorite characters.
Developer: FoxNext Games Publisher: Marvel Entertainment Systems: App Store, Google Play Release Date: TBA 2018
If repeatedly watching the Avengers: Infinity War trailer isn’t curbing your Marvel craving, you may want to supplement your superhero fix with Strike Force. Due to hit like a pavement-buckling Hulk Smash in 2018, the new mobile game mixes up Marvel’s iconic cast of spandex-clad day-savers and evildoers in unprecedented alliances. Combining strategic combat with character-progressing role-playing game elements, Strike Force promises to offer something for superhero fans of all stripes.
He’s a performance artist, published author, gala host, former soap star, college student, professor, and one of the most prolific film actors currently working in Hollywood. This week, James Franco is keeping busy as the director and star of The Disaster Artist, which dramatizes outsider hero Tommy Wiseau’s efforts to bring his infamous The Room to the big screen, so we decided now would be the perfect time to take a fond look back at some of the brightest critical highlights from Franco’s bustling career. From indie flicks to blockbusters, he’s been in just about every kind of picture — and we’re ranking them here while inviting you to rank your own favorites. It’s time for Total Recall!
As if it weren’t enough that Memoria served as one of a whopping nine movies Franco released in 2016, it’s also based on a short story he wrote — all of which might make it sound like the vanity project to end all vanity projects, if not for the universally positive critical reception it earned during its limited release. Granted, at five reviews, we’re dealing with a limited sample size — at a certain point, Franco becomes too prolific even for people paid to watch the movies — but a rave is a rave, and this quiet character study about a troubled Bay Area teen earned its share, with its author’s supporting turn as a concerned teacher helping anchor the drama. “Despite clocking in at a scant 70 minutes,” wrote Michael Rechtshaffen for the Los Angeles Times, “Memoria manages to make a hauntingly poetic impression.”
Sean Penn rightly received most of the many accolades afforded this 2008 biopic of assassinated political activist Harvey Milk, but director Gus Van Sant wasn’t content to let his movie rest on its star’s performance — he rounded out the cast of Milk with a number of actors whose seamlessly committed performances helped make it one of the most lauded films of the year. Franco fills a supporting role here as Scott Smith, Milk’s onetime lover (and, eventually, the executor of his will), who moves to San Francisco with him during the first act and helps him start his political career. Franco’s work earned him an MTV Movie Awards nomination for Best Kiss — and helped inspire Tom Long of the Detroit News to write, “Progress is slow, but Harvey Milk was one of the first to set the wheels in motion. He more than deserves a movie this good.”
(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/Fox Searchlight Pictures)
By 2010, James Franco had been making movies for well over a decade, and had flirted with leading man status fairly early in his career, but it never really seemed to suit him — until Danny Boyle came along with 127 Hours. A dramatization of the horrible ordeal overcome by mountain climber Aron Ralston, who devised his own gruesome rescue from certain death after being pinned by a boulder during an expedition, 127 Hours gave Franco the opportunity to carry a movie on his own terms — and earned him some of the best reviews of his career, not to mention a pile of awards and a Best Actor Oscar nomination, in the process. Mike Scott of the Times-Picayune was just one of the many critics who loved the film, calling it “A masterful slice of four-star cinema, featuring an irresistible performance by James Franco, breathtaking cinematography, and the kind of deep, searching soul that is absent from so much of what comes out of Hollywood.”
4. The Spider-Man Franchise (82%)
(Photo by Columbia Pictures)
Long before Tom Holland swung into the MCU as Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire brought Marvel’s wall-crawler to the big screen in director Sam Raimi’s blockbuster trilogy — and Franco joined the core ensemble cast as Harry Osborn, Peter Parker’s best pal and the future Green Goblin. Harry’s tortured arc helped form the backbone of Raimi’s overarching narrative throughout the three films, and although Spider-Man 3 proved a dissatisfying low note for the end of this chapter in Spidey’s big-screen life, the movies together helped pave the way for the looming great golden age of superheroes at the box office; more importantly, as Mick LaSalle observed for the San Francisco Chronicle, they offered “Smart, fun entertainment made by people who took nothing for granted, including the audience.”
If an actor is playing themselves in a movie, should it count as one of their best performances? More often than not, we’d say no — but we’re making an exception for the gloriously loopy This Is the End, in which some of Hollywood’s sharpest young talent play exaggerated (or straight up invented) versions of themselves against the backdrop of the apocalypse. The end of the world, naturally, is witnessed from Franco’s abode, where he’s hosting a house party (including Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, and Emma Watson) when things go haywire. The end result, while decidedly not for all tastes, hits its comedic targets far more often than it misses; as Dana Stevens observed for Slate, “This Is the End, true to its subject matter, is as funny as hell.”
While it would certainly be fair to say that the human actors have never been the Planet of the Apes franchise’s biggest draw — and that goes at least double for the recent prequel trilogy — it definitely helps to ground the drama if you’re working with actors who can bring the sci-fi saga’s more fantastical elements believably to life. With Rise of the Planet of the Apes, director Rupert Wyatt rounded up a talented flesh-and-blood ensemble that included John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Freida Pinto, and — as Will Rodman, the biologist whose quest for an Alzheimer’s cure unwittingly triggers the virus that sets the story in motion — James Franco. It all added up to a blockbuster that set the bar surprisingly high for its successors, and although Andy Serkis’ mo-cap work would deservedly come to define the trilogy, Franco helped lay the groundwork with an opening installment that the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Colin Covert deemed “first-class entertainment, packed with clever, unsettling and even inspired ideas.”
In addition to taking a supporting role, Franco also donned his producer’s hat for Goat, a harrowing drama from director/co-writer Andrew Neel about a college freshman (Ben Schnetzer) whose efforts to fit in on campus include pledging his older brother’s fraternity — a fateful decision that soon goes violently wrong, further complicating a young life already shadowed by horrific violence. Like a good number of Franco’s film efforts, it was destined for limited release and aimed outside the mainstream, but for many of the critics who screened it, this hard-hitting coming-of-age story — distinguished by a scene-stealing turn from former pop idol Nick Jonas — proved difficult to shake. “This isn’t an easy film to watch,” admitted the Washington Post’s Stephanie Merry. “But it’s even harder to forget.”
One of several films drawing from Franco’s 2010 short story collection Palo Alto, this 2015 indie drama weaves together “Yosemite” and “Peter Parker,” a pair of stories from the book, to observe moments in the lives of three fifth-grade boys in 1985. As with other Palo Alto-derived movies, Franco produced and starred but didn’t write or direct; here, he handed the reins to writer-director Gabrielle Demeestere and appeared in one segment as Phil, a father taking a trip to the titular park with his son (Everett Meckler). While certainly not one of his more widely seen efforts, it ranks among his most satisfying for the majority of critics who reviewed it — including the Village Voice’s Alan Scherstuhl, who wrote, “Yosemite mines Franco’s fiction for its most vital quality: his unsentimental depiction of youthful insecurity, this time among fifth-graders.”
It wasn’t seen by many people during its brief theatrical run, but this dark ensemble piece from writer/director Karen Moncrieff gave a strong stable of actors (including Franco, Brittany Murphy, Marcia Gay Harden, Josh Brolin, Toni Collette, and Kerry Washington) a chance to plumb the emotional depths of the mystery surrounding a woman’s grisly death. While far from Franco’s showiest role, his turn as a kind-hearted mortician helped anchor The Dead Girl’s unrelenting grimness with a small ray of something like hope — and helped move the Oregonian’s Shawn Levy to write, “Moncrieff manages to get beneath the skin of several of these characters, a nifty trick considering what a crowded world she’s created. In all, it’s a grueling, emotionally taxing, discomfiting film.”
(Photo by Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)
In this Paul Haggis drama, Franco took a supporting role alongside Jason Patric as one of two politely dismissive Army officers who interfere with the efforts of a grieving father (played by Tommy Lee Jones) to uncover the facts of his son’s gruesome murder. Though its Iraq War overtones didn’t do it many favors with audiences, and some critics felt Haggis took an excessively heavy-handed approach, most were able to appreciate In the Valley of Elah’s message — and the hard questions it asked in a time of war. “After the potent final image faded to black,” wrote Aisle Seat’s Mike McGranaghan, “I had that very special tingle I get when I know I’ve just seen a great movie.”
This week’s Ketchup covers ten headlines from the arena of film development news from the last seven days. Included in the mix this time around are stories about such movies as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Charlie’s Angels, an Evel Knievel biopic, War of the Planet of the Apes, and new roles for Ice Cube and Jennifer Lawrence.
This Week’s Top Story
DISNEY TO GIVE MARY POPPINS A SEQUEL 50+ YEARS LATER
As we frequently cover in the Weekly Ketchup, Walt Disney Pictures is currently in the midst of reviving many of their classic animated films as live action reboots and remakes. Not all of Disney’s hits from the middle of the 20th Century were (100 percent) animated, however, such as 1964’s Mary Poppins, based on the first novel in the series by P.L. Travers (as depicted in Saving Mr. Banks). Possibly confusing matters, some this week reported that Disney was going to “remake” Mary Poppins, but what they’re actually doing is rather more conventional (and one might guess, in keeping with Travers’ intentions). Walt Disney Pictures has started development of a new Mary Poppins musical movie which would be a sequel set 20 years after the original movie in the 1930s. This new Mary Poppins musical will be directed by Rob Marshall, whose filmography includes Chicago, Nine, and last year’s Into the Woods. For the film, the songwriting duo of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray, Smash) will start working on new songs that will attempt to follow up on the classics written for the first movie, like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “A Spoonful of Sugar.” There’s no word yet about who Disney might be hoping to cast as the older Mary Poppins, or any of the members of the Banks family.
Fresh Developments This Week
1. DARREN ARONOFSKY MAY DIRECT CHANNING TATUM AS EVEL KNIEVEL
One of the biopic projects that has been kicking (and jumping and rocket-cycling) around Hollywood since the 1990s has been the idea of an Evel Knievel movie. “Evel Knievel” might not be as well known a celebrity as he was in the 1970s, but during that time, Knievel was arguably one of the most famous figures in pop culture, following a series of well-publicized super stunts (some of which weren’t successful) on both motorcycles and a steam-powered rocket called the “Skycycle X-2.” In the past, stars such as Johnny Knoxville and Matthew McConaughey have been rumored or attached to star as Evel Knievel, but lately, it has been Channing Tatum who wanted to put on Knievel’s star-spangled jumpsuit. The project, which may be based on the Pure Evel biography book, is now being discussed with director Darren Aronofsky, whose filmography as director includes Black Swan, Noah, Requiem for a Dream, and possibly closest to an Evel Knievel movie, The Wrestler. In other Channing Tatum news, his superhero movie Gambit this week lost its director, Rupert Wyatt, over scheduling conflicts, as Fox is racing to get the movie made in time for an October, 2016 release.
2. WILL DC COMICS MOVIES START BEING FUNNY WITH BLUE AND GOLD?
One of the complaints movie fans sometimes have about recent DC Comics superhero movies is that they are less “fun,” or at least less “funny,” than their counterparts at Marvel Studios. This was a notion that some felt gained traction last year with a story that claimed that WB has a “no jokes” policy about their upcoming superhero scripts. Of course, that never necessarily meant that Warner Bros couldn’t change their plans, especially if they started to think that there would be a backlash over it, right? That might at least be one way to interpret the late-breaking news this week that Warner Bros is starting development of a movie focusing on the Blue & Gold team of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle. Like many of DC’s characters who aren’t Batman, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle are usually portrayed in the comics as being less serious and/or comedic. Blue Beetle is your typical inventor-turned-superhero (who was given a dark interpretation as Nite-Owl II in Watchmen). Booster Gold is a more unique concept, as a time traveler from the distant future who uses technology and knowledge of past events to make a name for himself in our time. Reportedly, WB is also hoping to recruit screenwriter Zak Penn, who worked on The Avengers for Marvel, to come across town to work on Blue & Gold.
3. ELIZABETH BANKS TO DIRECT CHARLIE’S ANGELS REBOOT
With Sony’s plans for a female reboot of Ghostbusters now less than a year away from release (7/15/16), the studio is now looking at other female-centric action comedies. The latest that we’ve heard about involves rebooting a TV-show-adaptation from 2000 (and a sequel in 2003), which was the private eye comedy Charlie’s Angels. The director that Sony has recruited for their Charlie’s Angels reboot is Elizabeth Banks, who is in high demand following her successful directorial debut with this year’s Pitch Perfect 2. The reboot doesn’t yet have a screenwriter yet, so it’s probably a few years away from happening. It’s also unknown if Elizabeth Banks might also take one of the female leads (or who knows, maybe “Charlie” could be a lady this time?).
4. JENNIFER LAWRENCE MAY STAR IN SPY MOVIE RED SPARROW
(Photo by Frazer Harrison / Staff / Getty Images)
In the arena of comic book adaptations, female spies and superheroes often have similar codenames, including Black Widow, Black Canary, and Mockingbird (from ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). That last one in particular is also similar to the last two movies in the Hunger Games franchise, which is close enough for us to call that a successful segue. 20th Century Fox is currently hoping to put together a package for a spy novel adaptation called Red Sparrow (again, with the color/bird codenames!). What Fox is trying to put together is a new film for both Jennifer Lawrence and director Francis Lawrence (the director of all of the Hunger Games movies except the first one). If Jennifer Lawrence signs on to star in Red Sparrow, she will be playing a young Russian spy and “trained seductress,” who is assigned to “operate against Nathaniel Nash, a first-tour CIA officer who handles the agency’s most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence.” Red Sparrow is an adaptation of a novel by Jason Matthews.
5. X-MEN DIRECTOR TO JOURNEY 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA
A few years ago, director Bryan Singer returned to the X-Men film franchise for X-Men: Days of Future Past (and next year’s X-Men: Apocalypse) after starting things off in the early 2000s with the first two X-Men films. This week, we learned that Singer has chosen his next film, and that it won’t be a fifth X-Men movie. Instead, Bryan Singer is taking on an adaptation of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the classic science fiction story about a high-tech submarine called the Nautilus. Singer’s movie is expected to be produced by 20th Century Fox (also the home of the X-Men franchise). That also means that this project is not the same as the long-in-development reboot that Walt Disney Pictures has been trying to get started, which at one point had David Fincher (Fight Club, Gone Girl) attached to direct. As for the future of the main X-Men film franchise, there have not yet been any announcements outside of spinoffs like Deadpool, Gambit, The New Mutants, X-Force, and a possible X-Men/Fantastic Four crossover. With X-Men: Apocalypse, the team’s second trilogy of films will be concluded.
6. WOODY HARRELSON CAST AS HUMAN VILLAIN IN WAR OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Although the (movie) summer of 2015 only ended a few weeks ago, much of Hollywood’s current focus is already on the summer of 2017, given the time needed to get expensive summer movies greenlit, cast, produced, marketed, and released. One such film will be 20th Century Fox’s third film in their rebooted Apes franchise, War of the Planet of the Apes (7/14/17). Details aren’t yet known about this third film, except that following the events of 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, humanity’s future was looking quite dire, and the word “war” isn’t exactly a positive portent. For that reason, it shouldn’t be surprising that the humans will be the villains in War of the Planet of the Apes. This week, we learned that the main human villain (“The Colonel”) will be played by Woody Harrelson, who is looking for a new franchise with The Hunger Games wrapping up on November 20.
ROTTEN IDEAs OF THE WEEK
3. ICE CUBE TO STAR AS THE NEWEST SCROOGE IN HUMBUG
Following the success of both Ride Along and Straight Outta Compton (which was essentially an “Ice Cube biopic”), Universal Pictures is very much interested in staying in the Ice Cube business. This was manifested this week by the news that Universal Pictures has won a studio bidding war to acquire a comedy spec script for Ice Cube to star in. The comedy is called Humbug, and much like the Bill Murray comedy Scrooged, it’s a contemporary retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. If the deal comes together, Ice Cube will play “a wealthy real estate mogul shown a path to redemption by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.” Humbug will be directed by Tim Story, who previously worked with Ice Cube on Barbershop, First Sunday, Ride Along, and next year’s sequel, Ride Along 2. Story also directed the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four movies, which now despite having RT scores of 27 and 37 percent have the distinction of being the best reviewed Fantastic Four movies to receive theatrical releases. In similar news (insofar as the connection between Ice Cube and Straight Outta Compton goes), Universal Pictures is also reportedly considering producing another rap industry biopic in the form of an adaptation of the non-fiction book Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money + God, about the early years of Def Jam records. If Universal does proceed, an early rumor suggests that they may be considering casting Jonah Hill and Fantastic Four star Michael B. Jordan as Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, respectively.
2. PROLIFIC ACTION STAR LIAM NEESON TO BE… THE REVENGER
(Photo by Larry Busacca / Staff / Getty Images)
The problem with basing the “Rotten Ideas” each week objectively on the aggregated RT Tomatometer scores of those involved, is that sometimes the numbers are misleading (there is such a thing as luck, and it’s not always good). Or sometimes people are punished by bad reviews for trying to operate outside their wheelhouse. Take for example, director Ruben Fleischer, who debuted in 2009 with the genre spoof Zombieland (90 percent on the Tomatometer), and then followed that up with three films as director or producer that have all struggled to receive RT scores above 45 percent. Then, there’s the case of Liam Neeson, who has appeared in plenty of well-received films, but partly because he’s so prolific, he’s also appeared in many (and in recent years, more) Rotten films than Fresh ones. Putting those two creatives together leads us to this week’s news that Liam Neeson has signed with Universal Pictures to star in an action comedy called The Revenger. Nothing is known about the premise, except that the title suggests that it’s possibly a spoof. There’s also the detail that the comedy pitch came from the writing team of The State/Reno 911 stars Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, who have given us such wacky comedies as Balls of Fury, Herbie: Fully Loaded, and the first two Night at the Museum movies (though as writers, their Tomatometer only has one Fresh score, Starsky & Hutch).
1. DETAILS EMERGE FROM TRANSFORMERS “WRITERS ROOM”
Earlier this year, the news cycle was populated several times about (many, many) different writers who were recruited by Paramount Pictures to participate in a “writers room” experiment for their Transformers franchise. The concept is that for two weeks, the same soundstage where dance recitals for Glee were held was used for over a dozen high profile screenwriters to pitch and “workshop” various ideas on where the Transformers franchise should go next. This week, we learned some preliminary details about two of the first projects to emerge from this experiment. The first such film is the least surprising, which is that there will be a straight up fifth Transformers movie, and the second to feature Mark Wahlberg in the lead role after last year’s Transformers: Age of Extinction. That film will be written by Akiva Goldsman (Batman & Robin, Insurgent), who had also been sort of leading the writers room project. Michael Bay was initially reported to be returning to direct Transformers 5, but Bay quickly replied via Twitter, “Re: directing TF5. No, it’s not official. I have not committed to any idea as of yet.” The other project announced this week comes from screenwriters Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari (who are described as Ant-Man writers, but they were not credited on that film). Their film will be an animated Transformers movie focusing on the history of the planet Cybertron, and how the Transformers came to be. Barrer and Ferrari are also working on a new Sabrina the Teenage Witch movie.
This week’s Ketchup includes news about sequels for Blade Runner and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, biopics about CBGB and Apple Computers, and new roles for Cate Blanchett, Taylor Lautner, Liam Neeson, and Channing Tatum.
This Week’s Top Story
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES SEQUEL GETS AN ARGUABLY APPROPRIATE SCREENWRITER
Enough time has passed that we can probably discuss some of the third act events of last summer’s surprise hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes. If you’re not ready to do that, stop reading now. Anyway, given what the final minutes of that film entailed, 20th Century Fox’s choice for the sequel’s screenwriter might seem either completely appropriate and awesome, or maybe a bit too predictable. One could argue that it’s a bit like hiring George Lucas to write the next Star Trek. Anyway, the writer in question is one Scott Z. Burns, who is coming off a Matt Damon trilogy that included The Bourne Ultimatum, The Informant! and ended last year with Contagion. And that last film is where we find the thematic cohesion at work in his new assignment. Burns was hired only after Fox first hired two of the first film’s writers to turn in a draft. And yes, director Rupert Wyatt is already locked down to return.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 MORE DETAILS EMERGE ABOUT BLADE RUNNER 2
Last year, it was announced that director Ridley Scott had signed to return to his 1982 neo noir/science fiction thriller Blade Runner in a new film. Blade Runner was of course a film about genetically engineered robots called Replicants in the Los Angeles of 2019, and featured Harrison Ford, Daryl Hannah, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos, and Sean Young. This week, we learned a few more details about what exactly this new film will be, starting with who has been hired to work on the script. Alcon Entertainment has hired screenwriter Hampton Fancher, who cowrote the original Blade Runner, to start work on this new film, which was confirmed as being a sequel set a few years after Blade Runner. Not many other details are yet known about the premise of the sequel, except that the protagonist will be female, much like in other Ridley Scott science fiction films like Alien and the upcoming Prometheus. Harrison Ford has also been confirmed as not returning for the sequel (which would have been especially untimely considering a lot more time has passed for the real Harrison Ford since 1982).
#2 AARON SORKIN CONFIRMED TO WRITE STEVE JOBS (THE ONE WITHOUT ASHTON KUTCHER)
As photos of Ashton Kutcher, dressed as Steve Jobs on set of the independent biopic Jobs, appeared online this week, Sony Pictures made sure that their own adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs wasn’t forgotten. The first big news about the project was the confirmation that Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter of The Social Network, has indeed been hired to work on the screenplay adaptation. Steve Jobs’ partner in founding Apple Computers, Steve Wozniak, was also hired this week to serve as a technical advisor on the film, which will most likely involve the realities of the computer business in the 1970s and 1980s (Wozniak left Apple in 1987). As for what exactly Sorkin’s script will be about, the writer is currently unsure of that himself, saying that it won’t be the typical cradle-to-grave biopic, but more like The Social Network.
#3 CATE BLANCHETT AND MIA WASIKOWSKA TO PLAY LOVERS IN CAROL
This year’s Cannes Film Festival is in full swing, along with all of the film announcements that the event brings. One such revelation involved an independent drama called Carol, which will be an adaptation of the 1952 novella The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith (author of The Talented Mr. Ripley). Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are Alright) and Cate Blanchett will star in Carol as “two very different women in 1950s New York, a 20-year-old girl working at a department store and a rich wife trapped in a bad marriage trying to break free.” And right about now is when this article should mention that The Price of Salt, written under a pseudonym at the time, was an early entry in the growing lesbian pulp romance genre. Carol will be directed by John Crowley (Boy A, Intermission) from a script by Phylis Nagly, writer/director of the 2005 HBO movie Mrs. Harris. Filming is expected to start in London and New York in February, 2013.
#4 LIAM NEESON TO TAKE A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES
Liam Neeson may be in theaters this weekend playing board game blow’em’up with CGI aliens, but he’s also finding time to make movies not based on children’s toys. This week, Liam Neeson was announced as having been cast in A Walk Among the Tombstones, an adaptation of a crime novel by Lawrence Block to be directed by Scott Frank (The Lookout) from a script he adapted himself. Scott Frank’s varied career as a screenwriter includes Get Shorty, Out of Sight and Dead Again, and cowriting credits on Marley & Me and Minority Report. Neeson will be playing a former NYPD cop turned private detective who “is hired to find the kidnapped wife of a drug dealer. He operates just outside the law where the police don?t go to track down the kidnappers, who he discovers have been involved in multiple kidnappings and brutal murders.”
#5 THE SUSPIRIA REMAKE CASTS UP
The next film from director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Your Highness) will be a remake of the 1977 Dario Argento horror/thriller film Suspiria. While Green’s more recent films have been outrageous comedies, it doesn’t appear that his take on this story — about an American ballet student attending a European academy that is actually home to a coven of witches — will be a nudity- and drug joke-filled romp. In addition to the fact that Green’s earlier films include Undertow and All the Real Girls, the cast of the Suspiria remake provides the biggest clues. The American student will be played by Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan, The Hunger Games), with other roles going to Isabelle Huppert (8 Women, The Piano Teacher), Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs), Michael Nyqvist (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Antje Traue (from the upcoming Superman movie, Man of Steel). It would be surprising to see this particularly serious bunch of actors in a movie more like Your Highness.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#4 DISNEY RETURNING TO NEVERLAND WITH PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS
As Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman demonstrate, Hollywood is in such hot pursuit of movies based on children’s stories that it doesn’t mind developing multiple films based on the same basic concept. One of the characters getting multiple film projects is J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and Walt Disney Pictures added another one to the list this week. The studio has acquired the film rights to the children’s book Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, which serves to give Peter Pan a back story, and also sets up material for possible sequels. Peter and the Starcatchers is also currently playing on Broadway as a play adaptation, and was recently nominated for nine Tony Awards. Disney hired screenwriter Jesse Wigutow (2003’s It Runs in the Family) to adapt the script, and with not much else to go on, that film’s “Rotten” 28% RT Tomatometer lands Peter and the Starcatchers in the Rotten Ideas this week.
#3 ALAN RICKMAN ENJOYS COUNTRY, BLUEGRASS, BLUES, AND OTHER MUSIC FROM THE UNDERGROUND
Director Randall Miller (Houseguest, Bottle Shock) had, until recently, been planning on starting filming soon on the Beach Boys biopic The Drummer, but it recently had to get postponed. And so, Miller is quickly moving things around to start filming of a completely different music-related biopic instead. Alan Rickman, AKA Hans Gruber and/or Professor Snape, has signed on to portray New York rock club owner Hilly Kristal in CBGB, a film about the famous nightclub that helped dozens of famous rock bands get their starts. Filming is expected to start in New York City as soon as next month, June, 2012. This is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas not because of Alan Rickman’s involvement, but due to all of the little green “Rotten” splotches on Randall Miller’s RT Tomatometer page. And in other Alan Rickman news, he’s also currently rumored to be in the running to play Ronald Reagan in The Butler, the planned movie that sort of does for the White House what The Help did for Southern whites’ houses.
#2 CHANNING TATUM TO PROTECT THE PRESIDENT IN WHITE HOUSE DOWN
Channing Tatum won a lot of new fans and good will for his performance this year in 21 Jump Street. This week, his agents attempted to monetize that a bit more by starting negotations with Sony Pictures for the lead role as a Secret Service agent in White House Down. The movie made news a while back when the studio paid an unusually high $3 million for a spec script that is described as being “Die Hard in the White House.” Of course, it didn’t hurt that the spec script was written by James Vanderbilt, who also cowrote the studio’s upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man. None of that, however, is really why White House Down is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas. Nope, that still has more to do with the fact that the movie will be directed by Roland Emmerich, whose only two bright spots on the RT Tomatometer are Independence Day and The Patriot (though those two films might also be the ones that White House Down has the most in common with, thematically). There’s no word yet as to whether Bill Pullman might be recruited to reprise his role as the POTUS.
#1 TAYLOR LAUTNER + PARKOUR = TRACERS
People may not have turned up in many numbers to see Abduction, but Taylor Lautner (Cheaper by the Dozen 2) still has pretty decent representation. Lautner has signed a deal with the producers of the Twilight Saga movies to star in Tracers, about a New York City bike messenger in debt to mobsters who learns to enjoy “the thrill of the world of parkour” to pay them back and impress “a sexy stranger, Nikki.” Lautner really should listen to Prince more, who would warn him about sexy strangers named Nikki. Anyway, Tracers will be directed by Daniel Benmayor, director of the 2009 action/thriller Paintball. Perhaps Paintball and this movie about parkour are forming some sort of action trilogy about short lived pop culture trends of the early 21st century? I’m scratching for rays of light here, folks, rays of light.
This week’s Ketchup is all about franchises, with all ten entries taken up by movies that in some way represent an extension of an existing brand. That mix includes four TV show adaptations, two sequels to prequel reboots and two superhero properties. We’re talking about familiar properties like Kung Fu, Planet of the Apes, X-Men, and even Fraggle Rock, Popeye, The Fall Guy and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?… this Ketchup’s got them all.
This Week’s Top Story
THE PLANET OF THE APES WILL RISE AGAIN
One of the most surprising success stories of the summer of 2011 was 20th Century Fox’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The prequel/reboot arguably did not receive the amount of publicity and hype that many other summer films did, and was also created in the shadow of Tim Burton’s previous attempt at rebooting the franchise in 2001. Regardless, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was both a critical hit (82% Fresh on the RT Tomatometer) and a box office smash domestically ($175 million) and internationally ($453 million). Rise of the Planet of the Apes is currently one of the top 10 highest grossing films of 2011, and is the highest grossing live action non-sequel of the year (if one counts a reboot/prequel as a non-sequel). All of that is the set up for what may therefore be one of the most obvious news stories of the year in film development: 20th Century Fox is developing a sequel. The studio already had a sequel deal in place with director Rupert Wyatt, who made his Hollywood debut with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, following the 2008 British film The Escapist. The Rise of the Planet of the Apes screenwriting team of Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (who also cowrote The Relic and Eye for an Eye) are also on board, and have talked recently about their ideas for a new Planet of the Apes trilogy. The first actor to be signed for the sequel is not James Franco or Frieda Pinto, but the more obvious star of Rise of the Planet of the Apes for all who’ve seen the film: Andy Serkis. After similar work as Gollum, King Kong and Captain Haddock in the upcoming Adventures of Tintin, Andy Serkis was the actor underneath the motion capture equipment who actually performed the role of Caesar on practical sets (rather than in front of green screens). 20th Century Fox is supporting Andy Serkis’ career in another way, as well, with the news this week that the studio has plans for an Academy Award campaign to recognize his work as Caesar. As for whether James Franco will return for the sequel, that decision is still awaiting the script, but one can find out here about something sort-of/sort-of-not spoilery about Franco’s character.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 BILL PAXTON AND THE KUNG FU MOVIE: THE GAME’S NOT OVER YET, GRASSHOPPER
A while back, this writer had the opportunity to spend a night hanging out with actor-turned-director Bill Paxton (Twister, Titanic, Aliens), and I saw first hand what he has to deal with on a daily basis: having strangers regularly shout “Game over, man, GAME OVER!” Well, he’s probably also filthy rich, so maybe that’s not such a horrible price to pay. Anyway, this week, Bill Paxton was revealed to be in negotiations with Warner Bros based Legendary Pictures to direct their planned film adaptation of the 1972-1975 TV series Kung Fu. So, depending upon how well publicized his role as the film’s director is, Bill Paxton might someday have people crackin’ the “Grasshopper” jokes at him too. David Carradine starred in Kung Fu as a Shaolin monk wandering across America during the Wild West period on a search for his long lost family. With a filming start date (at least partially in China) scheduled for the summer of 2012, Kung Fu is likely to be Bill Paxton’s third film as director, following Frailty (73% RT Fresh) and The Greatest Game Ever Played (62% RT Fresh). The Kung Fu script is currently being adapted by screenwriter John McLaughlin, who cowrote Black Swan and the Tommy Lee Jones comedy Man of the House. John McLaughlin also wrote the adaptation of Donald Westlake’s Parker character, starring Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez and Nick Nolte, which is in post production for a release in 2012.
#2 SUPERHEROES THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH COMIC BOOKS ARE THE TRUE WILD CARDS
Within the admittedly small Venn diagram of superhero fans who are not also bigger fans of fantasy or HBO’s Game of Thrones, author George R. R. Martin may always be best remembered as one of the editors and cocreators of Wild Cards. Starting in 1987, Wild Cards is a still ongoing series of 20+ anthologies and novels set in a shared world where an alien virus unleashed on Earth in 1946 created human sub-races of Aces (superhumans) and Jokers (deformed monsters and abnormalities). SyFy Films is a relatively new collaboration between the SyFy Channel and Universal Pictures created for the purpose of theatrical releases (ie, not the “movies of the week” more often thought of as being SyFy’s wheelhouse). SyFy Films has acquired the feature film rights to Wild Cards with the goal of launching a new franchise of films set in the series’ expansive superhero reality. The script for the first Wild Cards movie is being adapted by Melinda Snodgrass, who is Martin’s co-editor of Wild Cards, as well as being one of the series’ cocreators and cowriters. Melinda Snodgrass has also had a lengthy career as a TV writer, including multiple episodes of The Outer Limits and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Wild Cards is the setting for dozens of creative characters which include Fortunato (a pimp who uses tantric sex to fuel his abilities), Golden Boy (sort of the Wild Cards Superman), The Sleeper (an Ace prone to comas that result in him waking up with new abilities each time) and George R. R. Martin’s own character, The Great and Powerful Turtle, a powerful telekinetic man who uses a flying armored VW Beetle to fight crime (sort of imagine Iron Man as a flying tank). Although not much is yet known about the story of the first Wild Cards film, George R. R. Martin has already revealed that The Sleeper will be one of the film’s characters, and that the setting will be contemporary, rather than set in the past of the 1940s as one might expect from an “origin” story.
#3 WHERE IN THE WORLD IS… JENNIFER LOPEZ?
When most people think of movies based upon video games, the source material is generally from the genres of survival horror (Resident Evil, Silent Hill), action/fighting (Mortal Kombat, Prince of Persia), or first person shooters (DOOM). One of the projects that has been bubbling along in various stages of development since the 1990s, however, is a popular franchise that many people may not even associate with video games at this point: Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? The property started in the mid-1980s as a series of educational games that used mystery elements to teach students world geography and social studies, and then was adapted as a popular animated PBS TV series in the 1990s. It was during that time that Walt Disney Pictures first considered making a Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? movie, which, if it happened, would have starred Sandra Bullock as the elusive master criminal. Walden Media, the company behind The Chronicles of Narnia and other children’s literature adaptations like Charlotte’s Web and Ramona and Beezus, has now revitalized the idea of a movie version of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?. Walden Media has some A-List assistance in the form of dancer-turned-actress-turned-singer-turned-TV-host-turned-producer Jennifer Lopez (and I probably missed a career or two at that). Although Lopez is currently only on board in that capacity, there are rumors that if the project goes forward, she may also sign on to play Carmen Sandiego herself. There’s no writer attached to Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? just yet, but Walden Media is reportedly describing the project as being “National Treasure meets The Thomas Crown Affair” (except, presumably, with more of an edutainment and girl-power appeal). This is one of the week’s Fresh Developments mostly because there’s not enough known about it to burden the adaptation with a “Rotten Idea.” The notion of a live action adaptation of a beloved PBS series is also just fresh enough in today’s movie climate to be worth a little slack and time to prove itself.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#6 READY TO ENROLL IN A SECOND CLASS OF X-MEN?
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was not the only prequel reboot that 20th Century Fox released in the summer of 2011. The studio also released X-Men: First Class, which enjoyed similar critical acclaim (87% Fresh on the RT Tomatometer). The X-Men prequel, however, faltered significantly in box office in comparison, earning almost exactly $100 million less than Rise of the Planet of the Apes worldwide. Regardless, 20th Century Fox has a great deal invested in continuing the X-Men film franchise (such as the fact that Marvel eventually gets the rights back if Fox ever stops making X-Men movies). So, it is not surprising that 20th Century Fox has hired a screenwriter to start work on a sequel to X-Men: First Class. Simon Kinberg was one of the cowriters of X-Men: The Last Stand, which at 57% has the lowest RT Tomatometer score of the four X-Men team films (ie, not counting the 37% score for X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and he was also one of the producers of X-Men: First Class. Simon Kinberg also wrote Mr. & Mrs. Smith and xXx: State of the Union, and cowrote Jumper and Sherlock Holmes (which was the only film of his five credits on RT to get a Fresh score, 70%). There’s no word yet as to whether director Matthew Vaughn will return for the sequel, how much of the cast will return, or what the second film might be about. This news about a sequel to X-Men: First Class should be considered borderline Rotten. Yes, Simon Kinberg’s track record as screenwriter is disappointing, but X-Men: First Class was still arguably the summer’s best superhero film, and so the promise of the new prequel storyline’s continuation hopefully outweighs Kinberg’s handicap.
#5 GREEN LANTERN FALL GUY MAY DIRECT… THE FALL GUY
We may not yet know the full story of what exactly went wrong with Green Lantern, but there are rumors out there that the blame is not necessarily 100% that of director Martin Campbell’s. Although Campbell’s filmography is far from spotless (Beyond Borders, Vertical Limit), he did direct two pretty good James Bond movies (GoldenEye and Casino Royale) and arguably the best Zorro movie ever, 1998’s The Mask of Zorro. And so, Campbell’s career as director should be able to recover, as long as he picks the right projects. That, however, might be a pretty big “If” as Martin Campbell is reportedly in early talks to sign on to direct the long-planned movie adaptation of the 1981-1986 ABC TV series The Fall Guy. That action-adventure show about a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a bounty hunter was Lee Majors’ most significant post-Six Million Dollar Man TV show (and it had a great theme song, to boot). Although it was a fun show, The Fall Guy however just isn’t a show that has lived on vigorously in the minds of TV fans some 30 years later (see also: Voyagers, Hunter, Matt Houston, etc.). On the bright side, the film adaptation of The Fall Guy is being tackled by the screenwriting team of Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz, who were among the writers of Thor and X-Men: First Class, and they also have written several episodes of Fringe and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles for FOX. Consider this another borderline Rotten Idea for now.
#4 FRAGGLE ROCK REVIVED.. BUT WOULD JIM HENSON BE PROUD?
The idea of a Fraggle Rock feature film that revives the characters Jim Henson and crew created for HBO from 1983 to 1987 has been kicking around for a few years now, but until this week, the project didn’t have a home outside The Jim Henson Company. The rights to Fraggle Rock have been picked up by New Regency, a production company with such varying recent credits as Love and Other Drugs, In Time, Knight and Day, What’s Your Number? and Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son. There is definitely a lot of promise to the idea of a new musical adventure featuring the colorful Fraggles, but the franchise that is being name dropped as the inspiration for New Regency picking up Fraggle Rock is where this story truly turns rotten. Under the name Regency Enterprises, the same producers have also had a lot of success with the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies, which on paper share some similar properties: musicals targetted at kids. What’s missing, however, in Alvin and the Chipmunks is the creativity and gentle touch of Jim Henson and his collaborators. Although The Jim Henson Company made the deal, it is not yet known how much involvement TJHC will have with the actual movie (including whether it will feature puppets or be a CGI/live action mix, etc). The potential is there for these initial concerns to be overturned by the revelation that the Fraggle Rock movie might be the long-awaited feature film arrival of the classic HBO characters. Or, the producers could just keep mentioning Alvin and the Chipmunks.
#3 POPEYE SAYS “I YAM WHAT I YAM CUZ I EATS MY SMURFAGE.”
Adults may moan and groan (and specific ones may repeatedly put nearly all of them in the Rotten Idea category), but Hollywood studios can see by the worldwide grosses that there is money to be made in turning old cartoons into CGI modernizations. Sony Pictures had success just this summer with The Smurfs, which, with $551 million, is currently the #8 film of 2011 in worldwide box office. So, the fact that Sony is proceeding with plans for an animated update of the classic old cartoon (and comic strip) sailor Popeye is not a surprise, nor is it a surprise who exactly they’ve hired to adapt his adventures. Before addressing the writers of Popeye, it’s worth mentioning that Popeye has been the inspiration for a movie before, back in 1980 when Robert Altman directed a bizarre live action musical version starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall. That job is going to the screenwriting team of Jay Scherick and David Ronn, who were half of the writers of The Smurfs and have also already been hired by Sony to work on the sequel to The Smurfs. Scherick and Ronn also recently worked for Sony as 40% of the writers of The Zookeeper, and their other credits include the Eddie Murphy “comedies” Norbit and I Spy and the still-in-development movie version of the TV series Baywatch. Let that factoid digest, perhaps: the same people who are writing Popeye have also worked on Baywatch. They’re both about people with cartoonish physical proportions frollicking around in the waves, right?
#2 THE LEFT BEHIND FRANCHISE REFUSES TO BE LEFT BEHIND IN HOME VIDEO
Left Behind was the title of a popular series of 16 novels written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins that were published from 1995 to 2007 (although that’s not counting the dozens of other books published as spinoff tie-ins). The Left Behind books are set in a near-future apocalyptic setting in which the world is reacting to the events of The Rapture, in which millions of people have recently mysteriously disappeared. The popularity of the series led to a movie adaptation in 2000 featuring former Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron, which then led to two direct-to-video sequels. Like many other Christian movies, the Left Behind franchise was produced by people from outside Hollywood, but one Hollywood trend that the Left Behind people are following along with is the current fascination with reboots and remakes. And so, Paul Lalonde, the writer and producer of the Left Behind movies, has started development on a new reboot of Left Behind, with the goal of it receiving a theatrical release comparable to the recent Christian film Courageous. The Left Behind reboot has a budget of just $15 million. Although that would seem super cheap for an ambitious Hollywood production, that number actually makes the Left Behind reboot unusually expensive by Christian filmmaking standards. This reboot is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas mostly because of the really low RT Tomatometer score for the original 2000 version (16%). There aren’t even enough reviews on Rotten Tomatoes for the two DTV sequels to give them scores, but of the reviews there are on RT for those two films, all of them are “Rotten.”
#1 THOSE CLASHING TITANS HAVEN’T EVEN DISPLAYED THEIR WRATH YET, AND ALREADY A THIRD MOVIE?
One of the stories covered in last week’s Ketchup concerned the news that Warner Bros is already moving forward with plans for Sherlock Holmes 3, even though Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is still over a month away from release. If that seemed like a possibly tad-too-early decision, at least the world has seen trailers for that movie for a while now. One sequel that most people don’t even yet know is coming out is Wrath of the Titans (March 30, 2012), Warner Bros’ sequel to the 2010 remake of
Clash of the Titans. Without even a trailer to go by, there’s no way of predicting right now what the future might hold in store for Wrath of the Titans, but that’s not stopping Warner Bros. The studio has already hired two of that sequel’s screenwriters to start working on a thirdClash of the Titans movie. Dan Mazeau will be making his feature film debut with Wrath of the Titans and David Leslie Johnson has also previously written 2009’s Orphan and Warner Bros’s recent revisionist fairy tale adaptation Red Riding Hood. Although there are not yet any premise details for this third Titans movie, Sam Worthington is expected to continue on as Perseus. The “sidekick-like” character of Agenor, played by Toby Kebbell when he’s introduced in Wrath of the Titans, has also been mentioned as a strong possibility to return in the third film. Wrath of the Titans director Jonathan Liebesman, whose previous films also include Battle: Los Angeles, Darkness Falls and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, is also expected to return for this third film, although technically no deal is in place for Liebesman yet. Although there’s obviously no way of knowing what audiences and critics will think of Wrath of the Titans just yet, the Clash of the Titans remake received a “Rotten” score of 28% on the RT Tomatometer, and that is just enough to make the notion of a second sequel to an already Rotten remake… a triply Rotten Idea.
Audiences all hailed Caesar as the primate at the center of the sci-fi prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes conquered the North American box office with an opening that rose well past industry expectations. Conversely, the latest in this summer’s parade of R-rated comedies The Change-Up generated a lackluster debut finishing in fourth place. But the overall marketplace remained robust thanks to the incredible breadth of titles. For the first time all year, seven different films made over $10M over the weekend.
Fox scored another solid top spot debut this summer with a franchise origin story as Rise of the Planet of the Apes soared to an estimated $54M opening weekend. Playing in 3,648 theaters, the PG-13 film averaged a muscular $14,803 and ranked as the third best debut of the summer for a 2D-only film after The Hangover Part II ($85.9M) and X-Men: First Class ($55.1M) which like Apes revisited a popular sci-fi franchise by exploring the origins. Both X-Men and Apes were well-liked by critics.
Starring James Franco as a scientist that discovers a way to boost intelligence in chimpanzees, Apes lacked any major starpower and was the twelfth action film of the summer leading to expectations not being too high. But an exciting marketing push and strong reviews helped to spark interest allowing Apes to generate the fifth biggest August opening in history. The new technique of a human actor playing the apes through motion-capture technology created intrigue too. An encouraging A- CinemaScore grade bodes well for the road ahead and next weekend does not have any new action films opening so Rise may not fall the way most pics of this genre do. With a reported budget of $93M, the revenge-against-humans pic got off to a terrific start.
Internationally, Rise debuted in 25 markets and bowed to an estimated $23.4M. Most of the markets were not major. Bigger territories like Germany, France, and the United Kingdom open next week.
Sony’s family hit The Smurfs enjoyed a terrific hold in its second weekend dropping only 41% to an estimated $21M for a solid ten-day start of $76.2M. With no new choices for parents, and opening weekend audiences spreading positive word-of-mouth all week, the PG-rated comedy remained the most popular item for kids as they near the end of their summer vacations. Smurfs, which can continue using “#1 Comedy in America” in its ads for another week, should find its way past the $125M mark and could go much higher if it continues to show strong August legs. The pint-sized gang made a big splash overseas where it debuted in much of the world this weekend with an estimated $45.2M from about three dozen international territories for a $52.7M cume including the early launch in Spain. The worldwide tally for the $110M production sits at $128.9M.
After opening last weekend a bit ahead of Smurfs, the sci-fi Western hybrid Cowboys & Aliens fell a much larger 57% in its second outing to an estimated $15.7M giving Universal $67.4M after ten days. The Daniel Craig-Harrison Ford actioner may break $100M domestically, but won’t go much higher. That makes for a disappointing run for the expensive $163M budgeted production which involved top-tier Hollywood names like Jon Favreau, Steven Spielberg, and Ron Howard. By comparison, Spielberg’s other sci-fi production this summer Super 8 fell by only 39% in its sophomore session after an opening weekend that was about even with Cowboy‘s. With a much more modest $55M budget, that creature feature broke the $200M global box office mark this weekend.
Opening in fourth place to disappointing results was Universal’s body-switching comedy The Change-Up which grossed an estimated $13.5M from 2,913 locations for a mild $4,635 average. It was the latest in a long line of R-rated summer comedies and many moviegoers felt they had enough already. Plus bad reviews told audiences that this was not some special film worth taking another trip to the multiplex for. Ticket buyers have already spent an incredible $760M+ this summer on Crazy, Stupid, Love, Friends With Benefits, Horrible Bosses, Bad Teacher, The Hangover Part II, Midnight in Paris, and Bridesmaids. All are comedies aimed at adults, most with R ratings. The Change-Up was too little, too late.
Starring Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds as friends with different lives who swap bodies, the raunchy pic carried a cost of $52M which is high for a comedy. Females made up 59% of the audience while those over and under age 30 were evenly split. A discouraging B CinemaScore indicates a rough road ahead, especially with four new releases hitting theaters next weekend including yet another R-rated comedy, 30 Minutes or Less. Bateman and Reynolds both scored $100M+ grossers earlier this summer with Horrible Bosses and Green Lantern, respectively. But Reynolds is surely having a summer he would like to put behind him as Lantern has been a big-budget dud with only $160M worldwide to date. Cameron Diaz has made more with her comedy Bad Teacher which has banked over $180M globally with only a fraction of the budget.
Close behind in fifth with an estimated $13M was the super hero flick Captain America: The First Avenger which declined by 49% in its third frame. Paramount’s domestic total stands at $143.2M. International markets brought in an estimated $27.5M this weekend sending the overseas cume into nine-digit territory with $103M for a worldwide gross to date of $246.2M. Marvel’s three-pack of comic book pics this summer – Thor, X-Men: First Class, and Captain America – have now smashed the $1 billion mark in combined global box office. Next summer is sure to be even bigger with The Avengers kicking off the season on May 4 and reboot The Amazing Spider-Man landing on July 3.
Ranking sixth was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 which also became the top-grossing global hit of 2011. The final wizard pic dropped 45% domestically to an estimated $12.2M elevating the 24-day total to a massive $342.8M putting it at number 18 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters just behind the latest Transformers. Overseas delivered huge numbers again thanks to a robust opening in China. Official estimates were not available for that market but the studio reported a rough count of $25.5M contributing to the international weekend haul of $61.8M allowing the cume to surge to $791.1M. Potter’s worldwide total rose to a stunning $1.13 billion surpassing the $1.04 billion of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides to become 2011’s number one global grosser. In addition, the 3D franchise closer now ranks third on the all-time worldwide box office list behind the James Cameron duo Avatar and Titanic. A final haul north of $1.3 billion seems likely.
A trio of comedies aimed at adults followed. Steve Carell’s Crazy, Stupid, Love held up very well in its second weekend slipping only 37% to an estimated $12.1M for a solid ten-day tally of $42.2M. A final gross in the neighborhood of $75M could result for Warner Bros. Sony’s Friends With Benefits fell a sharp 49% to an estimated $4.7M bringing the 17-day gross to $48.5M. The revenge tale Horrible Bosses followed with an estimated $4.6M, off 36%, for a $105.2M cume for Warner Bros.
Falling 51% in its sixth round was the worldwide smash Transformers: Dark of the Moon with an estimated $3M lifting the domestic haul to $344.2M. That puts Michael Bay’s latest robot warfare flick at number 17 on the all-time list. Overseas, the Autobots film kept rising with an estimated $17.5M for an international haul of $693.5M and a mammoth global gross of $1.04 billion. The biggest market outside of the United States continues to be China which has now banked a stunning $137M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $153.8M which was up a healthy 43% from last year when The Other Guys opened in the top spot with $35.5M; and up 22% from 2009 when G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra debuted at number one with $54.7M.
It seems we will never exhaust our collective need for Planet of the Apes movies. The 1968 sci-fi classic spawned four sequels, a remake, and now a prequel, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And guess what? The critics say Rise is one of the best of the bunch, with dazzling effects, thought-provoking ideas, and plenty of action. While working on a cure for Alzheimer’s, a brilliant scientist (James Franco) unintentionally gives a chimp named Caesar extraordinary intelligence; soon, the simian is questioning his place in the world, while passing on his superior brain power to his fellow apes. The pundits say the Certified FreshRise of the Planet of the Apes is a swingin’ good time — it’s briskly paced, emotionally satisfying, and much smarter than your average blockbuster.
That staple of late-1980s cinema — the body switching comedy — is back full force with The Change-Up. However, some things should be left dormant, and critics say the subgenre that sired 18 Again and Dream a Little Dream is one of them — they find The Change-Up to be an oddly sour, gimmicky comedy that never establishes a consistent tone. Two old friends — one a married, overworked lawyer (Jason Bateman), the other a single softcore actor — relieve themselves in a magic fountain and find that they have switched bodies. At first, they each enjoy a change of scenery, but isn’t the grass always greener on the other side? The pundits say that although Reynolds and Bateman each do a good job of playing the other, they’re stuck in a sophomoric comedy that veers between gross-out gags and schmaltz. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we run down some of cinema’s most memorable body swaps.)
Also opening this week in limited release:
Bellflower, an indie action flick about a pair of weapon-manufacturing friends preparing for the Apocalypse, is at 89 percent.
Cold Fish, a horror/black comedy about a seafood vending-couple who are also brutal serial killers, is at 71 percent.
Mysteries of Lisbon, an operatic Portuguese drama about an orphan who goes looking for the truth of his origins, is at 71 percent.