(Photo by Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection)
After a decade of bit parts, many of them within the gainful employ of Steven Soderbergh’s production company, Viola Davis broke into the mainstream with a movie-stealing turn – and from Meryl Streep! – in 2008’s Catholic Church child abuse drama Doubt. Davis has all of 10 minutes of screen time in Doubt but earned an Oscar nomination for her work, joining the likes of Ruby Dee for American Gangster or Ned Beatty for Network of Oscar nominees who made the most out of their single-scene appearances. Yet, Davis forms Doubt’s emotional pillar, powerfully delivering social and cultural history that further obfuscates the film’s central mystery.
Davis has been releasing multiple movies a year ever since, frequently playing women of power or high up in their professions, in the likes of Law Abiding Citizen, Knight & Day, Ender’s Game, and Suicide Squad, as Amanda Waller, one of that movie’s rare bright spots. And Davis has frequently reached the same heights as Doubt in Certified Fresh films like Widows, The Help (receiving a Lead Actress nomination), and Fences, for which she won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. Davis got another Lead Actress nom for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and she returned as Waler for James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. And now, we’re ranking all Viola Davis movies by Tomatometer!
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.”
In 2007, director David Fincher teamed up with Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, and Jake Gyllenhaal on Zodiac, a potent murder mystery about the manhunt for the real life serial killer who terrorized northern California during the 1960s and 1970s. Gyllenhaal earned well-deserved praise for his portrayal of Robert Graysmith, the San Francisco Chronicle political cartoonist who helped decipher the Zodiac’s cryptic letters, but despite the film’s overwhelmingly positive critical reception, it was completely overlooked by the Academy Awards. Now that the film is officially 10 years old to the day, we thought it was the perfect time to look back at star Gyllenhaal’s best-reviewed films… including Zodiac.
Gyllenhaal ventured into romance — of a sort — with 2002’s The Good Girl, a small-town drama from Chuck & Buck screenwriter Mike White that starred Jennifer Aniston as a morose department store clerk struggling to choose between her unsatisfying marriage and her affair with the unstable, Catcher in the Rye-obsessed co-worker played by Gyllenhaal. Infidelity, dead-end jobs, and small towns are nothing new for the movies — indie films in particular — but however familiar its premise, The Good Girl earned praise from critics thanks to the finely wrought honesty of White’s script and strong performances from Aniston, Gyllenhaal, and their supporting cast (including John C. Reilly, Tim Blake Nelson, and Zooey Deschanel). Taking the cliche of a frustrated young man buried in Holden Caulfield and imbuing it with genuine depth, Gyllenhaal was a major part of why the Hollywood Reporter’s Duane Byrge called it “An absorbing, slice-of-depression life that touches nerves and rings true.”
After his 2011 film Incendies earned a heap of acclaim — including a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nod — French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve made his Hollywood debut with a gripping psychological thriller about a desperate man (Hugh Jackman) driven to extreme measures when his young daughter is abducted with her best friend. While much of the film rested on Jackman’s shoulders, he was supported by a stellar cast that included Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo, and Jake Gyllenhaal as the skeptical detective whose investigation into the disappearance is beset by false leads and a father obsessed with vigilante justice. The end result was a twisty, twisted mystery that impressed more than a few critics, like USA Today’s Claudia Puig, who noted that “the plot raises complicated moral questions about how far an anguished person will go for the love of a child. At the same time, it sets up an intricate, horrifying mystery with breathtaking skill.”
Most critics — and more than a few filmgoers — would agree that the found-footage gimmick has been more than played out since rising to prominence with The Blair Witch Project in the late 1990s. Still, it’s a powerful tool when used in the right way, as demonstrated by writer/director David Ayer’s End of Watch, which follows a cop/film student (Gyllenhaal) and his partner (Michael Pena) on patrol in the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles. While Ayer’s use of the found footage technique certainly proved divisive among critics, End of Watch earned a healthy $51 million at the box office, picked up a pair of Independent Spirit Award nominations, and enjoyed the respect of scribes such as Amy Biancolli of the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote, “The best scenes are filmed inside the cruiser, dashboard shots that face inward instead of out, catching Gyllenhaal and Peña in moments so playful and true they make all other buddy cops look bogus by comparison.”
Time travel, a falling jet engine, and a dude in a bunny suit: From these disparate ingredients, writer-director Richard Kelly wove the tale of Donnie Darko, a suburban teenager (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) charged with repairing a rift in the fabric of our dimension. Or something. To call Darko “open to interpretation” would be understating the case a bit — it’s been alternately confounding and delighting audiences since it was released in 2001 — but its dense, ambiguous plot found stronger purchase with critics, who cared less about what it all meant than about simply having the chance to see an American movie that took some substantial risks. Though a few reviewers were confused and/or unimpressed (Staci Lynne Wilson of Fantastica Daily called it “derivative,” and Joe Leydon dismissed it as “a discombobulating muddle” in his writeup for the San Francisco Examiner), overall critical opinion proved a harbinger of the cult status the film would eventually enjoy on the home video market; as Thomas Delapa wrote for the Boulder Weekly, “If the sum total of Donnie Darko is hard to figure, there’s no questioning that its separate scenes add up to breathtaking filmmaking.” Despite a paltry $4.1 million gross during its original limited run, Darko returned to theaters in 2004 with a director’s cut — one whose 91 percent Tomatometer actually improved upon the original’s.
Years before he challenged taboos with Brokeback Mountain, Jake Gyllenhaal proved his versatility with script choices like the ones he made in 2001, which found him starring in Donnie Darko, Bubble Boy, and Nicole Holofcener’s Lovely & Amazing. Though Bubble Boy saw the widest release of the three (and some of the harshest reviews of Gyllenhaal’s career), Lovely & Amazing proved he could hold his own with a stellar cast that included Catherine Keener, Emily Mortimer, and Dermot Mulroney — and it proved that he was capable of rising to the challenge of a writer-director known for getting the best out of her actors. Here, Gyllenhaal stars as Jordan, a teenaged one-hour photo developer who earns the adulterous affection of his frustrated (and significantly older) co-worker, played by Catherine Keener. Holofcener’s films are known for focusing on women — and rightly so — but smart dramas need smart performances, and with his empathetic supporting turn here, Gyllenhaal more than held his own. Though it wasn’t a major commercial success, grossing only just over $4.2 million in limited release, Lovely & Amazing enjoyed a number of awards and nominations from critics’ associations, as well as acclaim from scribes such as Terry Lawson of the Detroit Free Press, who wrote, “For all its dirty talk and up-frontness, this is a family film — it’s about one family and the extended family of females. Any woman who sees it will recognize that, and any man who sees it will be better for it.”
Take a heart-wrenching short story by Annie Proulx, give it to award-winning director Ang Lee, and surround him with a rock-solid cast including Heath Ledger, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, and — of course — Jake Gyllenhaal, and you’ve got Brokeback Mountain, one of the most talked-about (and award-winning) movies of 2005. Gyllenhaal and Ledger starred as Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar, a pair of Wyoming ranch hands whose tortured, almost completely unspoken affair has a profound impact on their lives — and the lives of their wives and children — over a period of several decades. Not your everyday Hollywood love story, to put it mildly — and to no one’s surprise, Gyllenhaal and Ledger earned more attention for their characters’ sexuality than for their performances in the roles, with a wide variety of pundits accusing the filmmakers of using Brokeback to further a political agenda; famously, one Utah theater owner canceled his engagement just hours before the first scheduled screening. Underneath all the hubbub, however, shone a beautifully acted love story with uncommon depth and intensity, and both Gyllenhaal and Ledger were richly rewarded for their work with an impressive number of awards and nominations, not to mention a $178 million worldwide gross and reams of critical praise from critics including Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who wrote, “It has become shorthand to call Brokeback Mountain the ‘gay cowboy movie,’ but it is much more than that glib description implies. This is a human story, a haunting film in the tradition of the great Hollywood romantic melodramas.”
In the hands of an ordinary filmmaker, any attempt to tell the story of the Zodiac Killer might have been equal parts conjecture and garden-variety gore — after all, the serial murderer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area for years in the 1960s and 1970s, taunting the police with a series of cryptic letters, eventually disappeared, never to be identified. For director David Fincher, though, the truly interesting story didn’t lie so much with the Zodiac as it did with the men and women who devoted themselves to apprehending him — particularly Robert Graysmith, the San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist who broke the Zodiac’s code and eventually became an asset to the investigation. As the increasingly driven Graysmith, Gyllenhaal led the viewer on a darkening spiral of dead ends, wild goose chases, and grim obsession — and he anchored a showy cast that included Robert Downey, Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chloe Sevigny, and Anthony Edwards. Unfortunately, the words “David Fincher” and “serial killer drama” sparked hopes that Fincher was returning to his Se7en roots, and the studio’s marketing campaign did nothing to set filmgoers straight; ultimately, despite a strongly positive reaction from critics, Zodiac was a non-starter at the box office, and by the time awards season arrived, this March release was all but forgotten. It deserved better, according to writers like the Toronto Star’s Geoff Pevere, who argued, “It makes you want to study it even more closely, in search of things you might have missed, trailing after leads that flash by in the relentless momentum of going nowhere fast. If you’re not careful, it might make you obsessed.”
It isn’t often that NASA engineers get their own biopics — but then, most of them don’t have life stories as inspiring as Homer Hickam, the West Virginia native whose Sputnik-fueled fascination with rockets turned him into a teen science fair sensation (and, more importantly, helped him avoid working in the local coalmine). Based on Hickam’s autobiographical novel Rocket Boys, Joe Johnston’s 1999 drama October Sky gave audiences a rare slice of critically acclaimed drama during the cold winter months — and it provided a breakout role for Gyllenhaal, whose biggest credits to that point came through parts in a pair of his father Stephen’s movies and minor appearances in City Slickers and Josh and S.A.M. Though he was surrounded with talented co-stars, it fell to Gyllenhaal to carry the movie as the young Hickam and make audiences believe in not only his wide-eyed wonder at the stars, but his struggles with his distant, unsupportive father (played by Chris Cooper); his success was noted by critics such as Jeff Vice of the Deseret News, who correctly predicted that “Even if October Sky was a complete dud, the drama would still get points for being the movie that launched the career of a new star, Jake Gyllenhaal.”
It’s a common complaint that there isn’t any room for original ideas in Hollywood anymore, but every so often, we’re treated to a movie like Source Code that proves an exception to the rule. Helmed by Moon director Duncan Jones from a script by Ben Ripley, this twisty sci-fi thriller follows the adventures of a U.S. Army captain (Gyllenhaal) whose latest mission — to prevent a catastrophic bombing on board a moving train — masks a horrible personal tragedy that his support team is keeping from him. Bolstered by a strong support cast that included Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan, and Jeffrey Wright, and topped off by a thought-provoking ending, Source Code earned the applause of critics like the New Yorker’s David Denby, who wrote, “The movie is a formally disciplined piece of work, a triumph of movie syntax, made with a sense of rhythm and pace, and Gyllenhaal, who is always good at conveying anxiety, gives [his] desperation a comic edge.”
After cutting his teeth writing screenplays for films like The Fall and The Bourne Legacy, Dan Gilroy made his feature directorial debut with Nightcrawler, an uncomfortably tense thriller about a socially awkward man (Gyllenhaal) who finds his calling as an ambulance-chasing freelance videographer. Gilroy spent years reworking his script around the character of Lou Bloom and found a perfect partner in Gyllenhaal, who played an active part in the production of the film, lost nearly 30 pounds for the role, and turned in a powerhouse performance. With help from outstanding supporting players like Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, and Riz Ahmed, Nightcrawler went on to become one of the best-reviewd films of the year and earned Gilroy a Best Original Screenplay nod at the Academy Awards in the process. As Christopher Orr of The Atlantic pointed out, “Gyllenhaal is the same age that De Niro was in Taxi Driver and, like him, he is learning to channel an eerie, inner charisma, offering it up in glimpses and glimmers rather than all at once.”
One of the biggest stars ever to come out of country music, Naomi Judd made up half of the female country duo, The Judds, in the 1980s and has since made her way to Hollywood. A proud mama to her two daughters (Wynonna and Ashley Judd) and a country girl at heart, she loves that her favorite movie of all time shocks most people.
In her current project, An Evergreen Christmas, currently available on DVD, Judd stars as a grandma trying to keep her family together when her lost-to-the-city granddaughter returns to inherit her father’s Christmas tree farm in the wake of his death. An Evergreen Christmas is out now in limited theaters, but check out the list of Judd’s favorite movies of all time below.
It’s my all time favorite, hands down. It’s just me. I really love the dark side and one of my girlfriends is one of the world’s experts on serial killers and she has John Wayne Gacy’s brain in her basement. I’ve SEEN it! Next to her sons hockey sticks. I didn’t know anything about it. We were on tour. We were in Corpus Cristi, Texas and had a night off and I always took the band and crew out for dinner and we go to this mall. I guess it was the last movie of the night and we’re the only ones in this theater and when we got out of the movie theater the whole mall was empty and we were locked in it. So, the whole night was creepy because we weren’t staying in an expensive hotel and there was just that little button on the door knob that locked our door. So I put all the heavy furniture in the room against the door. I can literally repeat the lines now and when I met Tony Hopkins — and nobody gets me; I’m just not impressed by celebrities unless they do something life saving or they’re a hero type — but anyway I don’t ever approach celebrities, but I couldn’t stand not to, and he did the lines for me. And then I was sitting next to Hannibal in a make up chair — the movie was called Heat and you know when you hang out with somebody for a long time… Ashley was doing that movie with him, so I had him do it. But absolutely my favorite.
All of Ashley Judd’s Movies.
Any one in particular?
Kiss the Girls was her first big box office and it’s pretty scary. It’s about serial killers as you know.
Ruby in Paradise (Victor Nuñez, 1994; 93% Tomatometer)
Then her first one called Ruby in Paradise — her first independent movie. That’s the first time I ever saw her act.
How did it make you feel seeing your daughter move to acting from coming up in the music industry yourself?
We saw the premiere in LA and I was stunned. Ashley was never in a high school play, she didn’t take a drama class — nothing. It seemed like it happened overnight. I knew she’d been taking acting classes once she got out to LA. About five weeks after graduating from college she said, “Mama, pass the salt. I think I’ll go to Hollywood and be an actress.” But that night I remember being in a trance, just kind of floating and looking around like, “Is my kid going to do this? Is this her journey? Is this a fore-bearer of what she really wants to do?”
An Evergreen Christmas is currently available on DVD.
Click here for more Five Favorite Films.
North American audiences drove the well-reviewed kidnapping thriller Prisoners to the number one spot with a solid opening of $21.4M, according to estimates. The Warner Bros. release averaged a commendable $6,574 from 3,260 locations and marks the studio’s fifth top spot debut of the year.
Mature adults made up the audience for this R-rated pic which used strong marks from critics and starpower from Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal to attract a debut that was especially good for this normally weak time of year. Cross-gender appeal helped too as evidenced by the breakdown of 52% female and 48% male. A very high 72% was over 25. The thriller cost $46M to produce.
Moviegoers liked what they saw. The CinemaScore grade was a respectable B+ while Saturday sales shot up 29% from Friday’s launch indicating good word-of-mouth and an older audience. That could bode well for future weeks although competition for mature adults will get fierce very fast and furious. One advantage Prisoners may end up having at the domestic box office is that it is a very American story compared to the more international-themed adult dramas coming soon.
Fright sequel Insidious Chapter 2 tumbled an understandable 64% to an estimated $14.5M in its second weekend and pushed its ten-day total to a robust $60.9M which already exceeds the $54M of its predecessor. Look for FilmDistrict to end at about $85M with a third chapter now in development.
Fellow sophomore The Family dropped 50% to an estimated $7M and has banked $25.6M to date for Relativity. A $40-45M final may result. The Spanish-language hit Instructions Not Included enjoyed another wonderful frame and actually saw sales climb by a healthy 17% to $5.7M putting the Lionsgate release at $34.3M.
The 3D international dance flick Battle of the Year was rejected by young adults and limped into fifth place with only a $5M opening weekend, according to estimates. The Sony release averaged a weak $2,490 from 2,008 locations and saw an audience that was 60% female and 55% 21 and older. Reviews were horrible, but on the bright side the paying crowd did like what they got. Its Cinemascore was an A-.
Sleeper hit We’re the Millers remained in over 3,000 theaters for an incredible seventh consecutive week and followed with an estimated $4.7M, dipping a mere 14%. The Warner Bros. hit has banked $138.2M to date and is headed north of $150M. Oscar hopeful The Butler grossed an estimated $4.3M, down just 22%, for a $106.5M cume for The Weinstein Co. Universal’s actioner Riddick followed falling 46% to an estimated $3.7M and $37.2M overall.
Opening in limited release to strong results in ninth place was the IMAX 3D version of The Wizard of Oz which grossed an estimated $3M from 318 large screens for a potent $9,503 average. The classic film is celebrating its 75th anniversary and Warner Bros. scheduled a one-week stunt in theaters intended to help promote next week’s Blu-ray release on October 1.
Rounding out the top ten was the Disney toon Planes which slipped a scant 8% to an estimated $2.9M boosting the sum to $86.5M.
A pair of critically-acclaimed films that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival enjoyed strong debuts in platform release ahead of wider play next weekend. Fox Searchlight unveiled the mature romantic comedy Enough Said starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles and bowed to an estimated $240,000 for a sensational $60,000 average. Enough expands to major markets across North America on Friday widening to around 200 total locations.
Oscar winner Ron Howard saw his latest directorial effort, the Formula One racing drama Rush, collect an estimated $200,000 from five locations for a solid $40,000 average. Universal hopes to use this momentum when it expands nationwide Friday into 2,200 theaters against three other new wide openers. Rush‘s budget was $38M and the pic was Howard’s first independently-financed film in three decades.
More awards hopefuls will release in the weeks to follow including Gravity on October 4, Captain Phillips on October 11, and The Fifth Estate on October 18 making for a crowded fall box office for mature adults next month.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $72.2M which was even with last year when End of Watch debuted at number one with $13.2M; but down 30% from 2011 when The Lion King 3D stayed in the top spot with $21.9M.
TORONTO — Director Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave has taken out the People’s Choice Award for Best Film at the 38th Toronto International Film Festival.
The breathlessly-reviewed slavery drama, which stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt, has already been heralded by some pundits as a lock for a Best Picture nomination come Oscar time, and the TIFF win only confirms its early lead in the awards season race. Last year’s TIFF winner, Silver Linings Playbook, went on to a Best Picture nom, with previous years’ victors including Best Picture champs Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech.
McQueen’s film is currently at 96% positive reviews at Rotten Tomatoes.
The runners up for Best Film were Denis Villeneuve’s thriller Prisoners, with Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal (currently at 89%), and Stephen Frears’ Venice fest favorite Philomena, starring Steve Coogan and Judi Dench (presently at 93%).
Elsewhere, Jehane Noujaim’s Egyptian revolutionary doco
The Square was voted Best Documentary, cult Japanese director Sion Sono’s latest, Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, claimed the Midnight Madness Award, and Alan Zweig’s When Jews Were Funny, an exploration of the history of 20th century American Jewish comedy, was awarded Best Canadian Feature Film.
Look for our complete rundown of how the major films fared with the critics later.