Mikael HafstromMikael Håfström first came to international prominence with his outstanding Swedish-language debut Evil and swiftly made the transition to Hollywood directing Jennifer Aniston-starred Derailed. By all accounts his freshest movie to date is the one we’ve travelled to talk to him about, 1408. Based on the book by Stephen King, the film stars John Cusack as a ghost story novelist who comes to suspect that the latest hotel room he’s investigating may actually be haunted.

How are you feeling now the film has come out in the US?

Mikael Håfström: Very good; it’s done very good business in America and so everyone’s very happy.

And the critics love it too.

MH: Yeah. I think the film crossed over as well; the first week a higher percentage of women saw the film which is very good for horror. Of course not many kids saw it! But I guess women love to see men suffering for their sins!

So that was a really positive thing, and obviously Cusack is a very popular guy with both men and women and I think he gives a great performance here. The audience loves to watch him.

When you first started on the project, going in with probably hundreds of King adaptation, some amazing – Kubrick‘s done one – some not so amazing, how daunted were you?

MH: I was a little bit concerned at the beginning for those reasons, but on the other hand at a certain point you just have to put that aside and try to make the film as good as you possibly can. I felt that this film had its own heart and soul, its own life. And yes, Kubrick made a film about a guy in an hotel going insane – that could stress you out a bit – but you could see from the source material that it was very different from The Shining. But, you know, who can compare himself to Kubrick anyway? You just have to leave those things aside.

There are quite a few Stephen King adaptations I really liked throughout my life, starting with De Palma‘s Carrie, for instance, and also Misery which was actually a film I watched a couple of times before I started shooting this. It’s also set in a very self-contained environment; a writer in a bedroom. In fact I’d say it has more in common with Misery than The Shining which, on paper, looks more similar.

A still from 1408

Did you get a chance to hang out with Stephen King at all?

MH: We didn’t hang out, you don’t really hang out with Stephen King! [laughs] But I talked to him and he was very much a gentleman about the film and he said, “Go off and do your film and good luck,” basically. He read the script and liked it and so on but he didn’t want to have any creative input and he seldom does if he’s not directing or producing or something. I found him a very smart, blokey, polite man. I really enjoyed talking to him. We obviously showed him the film, I wasn’t there, but he immediately reacted positively to it and said that we were true to the heart and soul of his text so that was a great thing to hear.

When you read the story initially what was it that you knew you had to get across to make it work?

MH: Funnily enough I actually read the first version of the script before I read the short story. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, my producer, gave me the script and I read it really quickly. I read the short story immediately after.

But I think what drew me to the material was the hotel as an arena. I really like the idea of a hotel as an arena for any drama, whether it’s real life or in films, we’ve seen it in comedies, horror films and so on. I have this relationship with hotels. Also the challenge to do something so contained – it was one character in one room – with the right actor I thought that could be something very interesting. How do you make this thing work in such a contained place?

When the DP Benoit Delhomme came on board, those were the things we were working a lot with. The production design created a very generic hotel suite but one that also made it technically possible to have some fun in. I mean, eventually, we were slowly going insane in this place because, you can imagine, week after week on the same set. We never moved any walls or anything because we really wanted to keep the claustrophobic atmosphere of the place. We shot almost the whole film with steadicam which made us very mobile. John Cusack is an actor who likes to improvise a lot and I welcome that, especially in this case where it was just him. That was the working situation we set up.

A still from 1408

I imagine that working in an environment like that where the room becomes gradually degraded as the film goes on, continuity must be an absolute nightmare.

MH: Continuity was a nightmare. We had to build eleven or twelve different versions of the hotel room because of all the things that happen to it. It became much more technically complicated because of that. It looks simple on the surface, one guy in a hotel room, but there are so many different things happening in the room so just a simple scene like where the sprinklers come on and make everything wet, everything has to stay wet for following scenes, so it was very tough for continuity.

In all this, though, it was also fun because I think John, Benoit the DP and I really created the best working situation. We planned a lot and we could also throw everything out the window if we came up with something better; we had that sort of freedom more than usual. There’s, like, a one-hour-long scene in the hotel room, you know, and obviously things have to happen in a certain order, but within that we had a certain freedom.

When you have actors as talented as John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson on your side, does it make the whole process more enjoyable?

MH: Absolutely, if you have talented actors it makes life massively easier. As John Huston once said, as soon as I have to direct I know I’ve done my casting wrong, and there’s some truth in that. But of course, when you’re directing strong personalities such as John and Sam you also have to go in there and be strong and have your roadmap and stick to it, because your responsibility is the whole goddamn thing and actors are in the moment much more than a director can afford to be.

Sam and John have never worked together before so putting those guys in a room together was obviously fun. You have to cast right, you can see great actors being cast wrong and they’re helplessly lost in that situation. I think, when it comes to the hotel manager played by Sam, we really needed a strong character who could stand up to John in this nine-minute long scene. It’s an interesting power struggle within that scene and that was a great joy for me to do. We rehearsed it as almost a theatre play; we spent a day rehearsing and shot it the next day. That was interesting.

You mentioned John as an in-the-moment actor; when you’re working with material this dark is it easy to snap out and the end of the day and stay sane?

MH: John has his process and we tried to start every day just me, John and Benoit and we would just go through what we were going to do that day. John woke up in the middle of the night and had some new idea, and I would have some of my own, and Benoit would add something, so we worked in that manner and then when we felt that we had a good situation going we started to shoot.

Many of these scenes took a lot of energy out of John for starters – and also me as a director sometimes! I had to play all the things that were not there yet, the screaming walls, Mary McCormack on the computer, and all of these things. It was a very physical film to direct in that way because I was doing all these things for John to react to.

But, yeah, he’s very committed and it drained him every day, but he was also a trooper and he’s a strong guy. He’s a professional actor so he knew how to divide his energy in the right way.

A still from 1408

I imagine you’re a definite John Cusack fan…

MH: Yeah, absolutely, who isn’t! John’s been working for something like twenty years now, and he’s even in Stand By Me, which is another Stephen King adaptation, when he was much younger. When you think about John Cusack you think about quite an amazing variety of films and parts; he always makes something new out of it even if he’s playing in conventional things like romantic comedies. Even if you don’t love the films, maybe, you can always watch him because he always gives something.

What are you favourite Cusack films, not including 1408?

MH: Not including 1408? The Grifters is a great film. I think he was very good in that thriller in the motel that came out a couple of years ago, Identity. That was quite an underrated film and I think it was a very interesting piece. It didn’t get the attention it deserved. Being John Malkovich was another film I liked a lot. Whatever genre he works in he always brings something to his characters. I think, when it comes to 1408 you may like the film, but you’ll like Cusack even if, for some reason, you don’t like the film. It’s a great performance.

Evil is a great film; have you moved to Hollywood now or are you thinking of going back to Sweden to make perhaps a smaller film?

MH: Hollywood doesn’t really exist. It exists as a place but the concept is disappearing. 1408 is a Swedish director, a French DP and composer, an English crew. And that’s important to me, it’s an international environment. I shot here in London and I now have a group of people I really like to work with.

I’ve stopped planning things that way, things will happen. Of course I can see myself doing a film in Sweden at some point. Sweden is a very small country with a very small film business and being able to work in this international environment gives me more opportunity to do what I chose as a profession; that’s great news. As a director I really want to try different films and different genres, and I want to surprise myself, too, I want to find projects I really wasn’t thinking about doing. So we’ll see what happens in the future but, you know, with 1408 doing very well in the US it obviously gives me more freedom and trust from the money people to do what I want, which is good news for me, obviously.

A still from 1408

Have you found, making 1408 and Derailed, that the offers coming through are for similar thrillers?

MH: No. It’s quite a variety, the next film I’m starting on now is called Shanghai and it takes place there during the war, just before the Japanese invasion of China. It’s sort-of an epic drama, a love story set with the war as a backdrop. It’s a great piece of material that I’ve been flirting with for quite some time and I hope it’s going to happen at the beginning of next year. So that’s something very, very different from these two films.

You mentioned Evil, you know, that’s a period piece in a Swedish boarding school in the fifties. I can see similarities with Evil and 1408 when it comes to my interest for this specific character, even if they’re very different films. But you’re drawn to certain material and certain characters for a reason. You don’t want to know exactly why because then it becomes too intellectual, but you try to go with your gut feeling.

Also, I’m not really worried anymore about critics and so on. Obviously you want people to like what you do but if you want to really be loved by critics you should stay away from the horror genre. I really try to be honest with myself and do things that I can have fun with.

Is the challenge part of the interest?

MH: Yeah, if you for one reason or another end up in this weird job that I have you have to be prepared to work very hard and I think that’s for every film. Shanghai is proving to be the most technically complicated film I’ve done, but I welcome that and sometimes you wonder, “Why the hell am I do this? Why do I get up at six o’clock every morning?” But that’s who you are and that’s what you love in a way. The alternative is working in an office, and sometimes you wish you were, but at the end of the day you’re not.

While sitting on a Comic Con panel, Frank Miller was asked about the hold-up on Sin City 2. (Numerous times, probably.) And it looks like the celebrated author / artist / filmmaker is laying the blame solely at the feet of the Weinstein brothers.

Could it be that Grindhouse threw a monkey wrench into future Weinstein production plans? Sheer speculation on my part, but I’d have thought a Sin City sequel would be a no-brainer by this point. Then again, both Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez are presently hard at work on other projects — to say nothing of the large number of busy actors who’d be needed. So there’s probably enough "blame" to go around, really.

According to Dark Horizons, Mr. Miller "confirmed that he and Robert Rodriguez have a script ready – an adaptation of A Dame to Kill and some of the book’s other short stories — but left the cryptic hint that the Weinstein’s themselves are part of the hold up — likely tying into the fledgling distributor’s lack of success so far at the box-office."

OK, so the Weinsteins didn’t exactly set the world on fire with Grindhouse, Miss Potter, Bobby, The Matador, Derailed, Pulse, Breaking and Entering, Harsh Times, DOA: Dead or Alive, The Gathering, Unknown, The Ex, Nomad, School for Scoundrels, Black Christmas, Arthur and the Invisibles, or Factory Girl — but they’re doing OK with 1408 and Sicko. Plus they’ve got some treats in store (Grace Is Gone is excellent, The Mist sounds great so far) for later this year. And maybe someday they’ll actually release Killshot, Teeth and Rogue and make a few dollars off of ’em. Still it’s tough to feel bad for the guys who put money behind Who’s Your Caddy? and Hannibal Rising. Then again, Clerks 2 was pretty darn funny.

Anyway, yeah: Sin City 2. As the highway signs sometimes say: Expect delays.

Source: Dark Horizons

Thomas Jane has been making the internet rounds lately, and he’s been telling anyone who’ll listen that the world simply MUST have a sequel to "The Punisher." His most recent stop was a podcast interview in which he revealed who’ll probably be writing said sequel.

From BigFanboy Livecast: "Things got off to a great start when Thomas Jane talked about "The Punisher 2," which looks to finally be making some progress. Tom announced that the latest draft of the screenplay is going to be written by Stuart Beattie, who penned "Collateral" for Michael Mann, and worked on all three "Pirates of the Caribbean" screenplays. Steve Niles pointed out that Beattie also did a draft for "30 Days of Night," which just wrapped shooting last week, and will be released October 19th, 2007."

Point of clarification: I don’t think Mr. Beattie worked on the screenplays for the "Pirates" sequels, but I could be completely wrong there. The guy’s other screenplays include "The Protector" and "Derailed."

It’s a box office battle royale at the multiplexes this weekend as two guys in penguin suits fight over the number one spot with their new releases.

Warner Bros. offers the animated kids movie "Happy Feet" while Sony counters with the latest James Bond adventure "Casino Royale." Each has a legitimate shot at reaching number one and will play to different audiences. Meanwhile, two-time chart-topper "Borat" plans to stick around and cause trouble (and collect more lawsuits) despite the arrival of two new heavy hitters.

Yet another computer-animated film featuring talking animals hits the big screen this weekend in the form of "Happy Feet" which tells the story of Mumble, a young penguin who can’t sing like all his other classmates can, but can dance up a storm with his toe-tapping skills. The PG-rated film features the voices of Robin Williams, Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, and Brittany Murphy and is directed by George Miller ("Babe"). Warner Bros. will offer dozens of Imax runs simultaneously with the standard launch of the film which will give the grosses a nice little boost.

The penguins return in animated form in "Happy Feet."

The weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday frame has always been a potent one for films that play to kids. Although "Happy Feet" has a story that wanders from one genre to the next, its dazzling digital animation should please audiences. Plus, Williams is in top form voicing two different characters who together provide about 95% of the film’s comedy. Last year, the Oscar-winning actor lent his pipes to Fox’s "Robots" which opened with $36M thanks to the star wattage he brings to a big toon vehicle. "Feet" should be able to debut above that mark.

The marketing push behind "Happy" has been colossal as the studio is hoping for big things from its little penguin. Kids and moms have been bombarded with promotion everywhere they go and awareness with that key demo is sky high. But crossover potential to teens and young adults in questionable. This is not like "The Incredibles" or "Shrek" where every teenager is pumped up and ready to buy tickets. There is also solid competition for the family audience in the current marketplace as "The Santa Clause 3" and "Flushed Away" are set to collect $20M or more worth of ticket sales from the exact same crowd this weekend. But penguin power could edge out Bond’s guns as "Happy Feet" will have around 400 more theaters, a shorter running time, and more starpower. Opening in 3,804 theaters, the animated film might take in about $40M this weekend.

Sony and MGM try to restart one of the most successful film franchises in history with "Casino Royale," the latest James Bond action-adventure tale. Daniel Craig replaces the wildly popular Pierce Brosnan in the role of Agent 007 in the first new installment in the series in four years. Martin Campbell, who directed the former Remington Steele in his first Bond pic "Goldeneye," gets another chance to break in a rookie into one of the industry’s most iconic roles. In the U.S., Craig is practically an unknown actor and with no famous co-stars, "Casino Royale" cannot rely upon starpower to drive in audiences. Instead, it will look to the marquee value of the franchise as well as to reviews from critics which so far have been glowing and even better than what the studio could have hoped for. Many find Craig to be the best Bond ever.

New Bond, same wardrobe in "Casino Royale."

Each of Brosnan’s first three Bond films had the secret agent’s famous digits branded into its opening weekend gross figure. "Goldeneye" opened to $26,205,007 on this same weekend in 1995, "Tomorrow Never Dies" premiered to $25,143,007 in December 1997 when it faced the launch of "Titanic," and "The World is Not Enough" launched with $35,519,007 when the franchise returned to the weekend before Thanksgiving in 1999. No telling if Sony will follow suit with "Casino" and insert Bond’s trademark number into the final opening weekend tally. 2002’s "Die Another Day," the last film in the series, raised the bar even higher debuting to $47.1M on its way to a $160.9M domestic take and $415M worldwide haul.

"Casino Royale" is not likely to reach that bar in its first weekend. With Brosnan gone and many fans not sure yet if they want to try out this new blondie, the debut frame could suffer a bit. Action fans had a routine of going to see a Brosnan Bond film every couple of winters, plus the addition of Halle Berry, who was red hot from her Oscar win that year, boosted the film’s star quotient. "Royale" could have greatly benefited by casting at least one big star to help keep its hold on its fan base. Nevertheless, with no other action movies in the marketplace, "Casino" has almost no direct competition. And its Texas Hold ‘Em storyline could appeal to young men addicted to poker.

But the box office world has changed much since "Die Another Day." Nowadays, action movies that rely on stunts instead of special effects often struggle to attract audiences. Competing globe-trotting spy flick "Mission: Impossible III," which appeals to much the same audience, bowed to an underwhelming $47.7M last May while playing in over 4,000 theaters against no competition. Sure, the Tom Cruise backlash may have contributed. But today’s audiences get plenty of high-quality action for free on network television and want a lot more bang for the buck if they’re expected to pay top dollar at the multiplexes. Also impacting "Casino’s" potential is its long running time which clocks in at nearly two and a half hours. That’s a good 45 minutes longer than "Happy Feet" meaning each screen can accommodate one extra penguin showing per day.

Sony has backed its latest blockbuster with a sizable marketing push. Strong word-of-mouth could allow it to hang on in the long term. But early skepticism may lead many adult moviegoers to a wait-and-see approach as they figure out whether this Bond is worth it. Diving into 3,434 theaters, "Casino Royale" might gross about $38M for the weekend. With recent Bond flicks making 60-70% of their loot from outside of North America, international prospects look sensational over the coming weeks.

Universal quietly tosses the R-rated comedy "Let’s Go To Prison" into the marketplace on Friday hoping to tap into young men in search of bold humor. Directed by Bob Odenkirk, the jailhouse laugher boasts a cast fit for a straight-to-DVD release – Dax Shephard, Will Arnett, and Chi McBride. In this revenge comedy, a felon makes life hell for the son of the judge who sentenced him to the slammer. The marketing push has not been very strong and with "Borat" stealing away the same audience, it will be an uphill battle to find paying customers. Opening in 1,495 cells, "Let’s Go To Prison" might lock down only $5M over the weekend.

"Let’s Go to Prison" for some reason was not screened for the press.

Confusing audiences in nearly 500 theaters across the country this weekend will be "After Dark Horrorfest – 8 Films to Die For." For one weekend only, this collection of B-grade fright flicks will play in theaters with moviegoers having the choice of which films they want to see. These include such titles as "The Gravedancers," Takashi Shimizu‘s "Reincarnation," and "Wicked Little Things" plus a special Sunday night presentation of "Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror" as the ninth creepy tale. To generate interest, After Dark is promoting this as a special event for horror fans featuring films that they were not supposed to see. To fill the dead space on screen between Sunday and Wednesday when many new Thanksgiving weekend films open, theaters will get to run "encore presentations of audience favorites."

In limited release, more potential candidates for awards season make their way into theaters. Fox Searchlight unleashes Richard Linklater‘s newest creation "Fast Food Nation" in 321 theaters across the major markets. The R-rated ensemble pic stars Greg Kinnear, Wilmer Valderrama, Ethan Hawke, and Patricia Arquette in an expose of the American junk food biz.

The stars of "Fast Food Nation."

MGM and The Weinstein Co. go back to June 5, 1968 with the political drama "Bobby" examining the lives of those inside the Ambassador Hotel on the day Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. Another large cast takes to the screen including Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Fishburne, Elijah Wood, Lindsay Lohan, Sharon Stone, Helen Hunt, Demi Moore, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, Ashton Kutcher, Martin Sheen, and son Emilio Estevez who also serves as writer/director. "Bobby" platforms in solo engagements in New York and Los Angeles on Friday and expands nationally next Wednesday.

Emilio Estevez directs and stars in "Bobby."

Packing films with stars seems to be the way to go as showcased again by the film industry comedy "For Your Consideration" from writer/director Christopher Guest ("Best in Show," "A Mighty Wind"). Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey, Ricky Gervais, and Fred Willard team up for a story about the wackiness that results when a small indie film attracts Oscar buzz for its cast members. Warner Independent Pictures will debut "Consideration" on Friday in ten U.S. markets plus three Canadian cities before expanding next Wednesday into major cities across North America.

More Christopher Guest satire in "For Your Consideration."

After stumbling into the number one spot two weeks ago, "Borat" will have to settle for being bumped a couple of spots this time thanks to the frame’s two new heavyweights. "Casino Royale" will provide some competition but "Happy Feet" should have no effect on the raunchy comedy’s war of terror on the nation’s multiplexes. Midweek business is still very strong so a 35% drop to about $18M could occur. That would give "Borat" a hefty $94M in 17 days and could possibly allow it to crack the $100M mark by Turkey Day.

Disney’s "The Santa Clause 3" and Paramount’s "Flushed Away" have been chart buddies for two weeks now, but the pair of kidpics might have a chance to swap positions this weekend. Both will take direct hits thanks to the arrival of the new penguin pic, but "Flushed" seems to be holding up a bit better. This weekend, we may see it drop 35% to $11M raising its total to $53M. "Santa," meanwhile, may fall 40% to around $10M for a $53M cume as well.

Will Ferrell saw a respectable showing for his new comedy "Stranger Than Fiction," but most of that crowd will be opting for Sony’s other offering this weekend – James Bond. A 45% drop might occur giving the flick $7.5M over the sophomore session and a ten-day tally of $24M.

LAST YEAR: Warner Bros. destroyed the competition with the latest installment of its enduring franchise – "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." The fourth wizard flick bowed to a jaw-dropping $102.3M making it the fourth-biggest opening weekend in history, at the time. "Goblet" was a big winner grossing $290M domestically and a towering $892M worldwide making it the second highest grossing "Potter" pic. Debuting far back in second place, but with solid results of its own, was Fox’s Johnny Cash drama "Walk the Line" with $22.3M. The Joaquin PhoenixReese Witherspoon film went on to capture $119.5M plus an Oscar for Reese. Rounding out the top five were Disney’s "Chicken Little" with $14.7M, The Weinstein Company’s "Derailed" with $6.5M, and Sony’s "Zathura" with $5.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This weekend, multiplexes hope to cram in lots of moviegoers thanks to a wide selection of new films. Six movies open or expand nationally on Friday making for what will be one of the most competitive weekends of the holiday season.

Adult audiences looking for a laugh can see Will Ferrell in a more mature role in "Stranger Than Fiction." The female vote will be split with daughters going for a scare with Sarah Michelle Gellar in "The Return" while their mothers can spend the evening with Russell Crowe in the romantic comedy "A Good Year." The action flick "Harsh Times" rounds out the menu of new releases targeting young men.

In addition, the cross-continent drama "Babel" expands across the country after two weeks of stellar results in limited release. Despite all the new opponents entering the field, reigning box office incumbent "Borat" will go fully national in an attempt to be re-elected for a second term as commander-in-chief. Rarely does a November weekend have so many new offerings. The fight for screens and moviegoer attention will be fierce. Not every film will survive so some casualties will be left behind on the battlefield by the end of the frame.

After battling Sacha Baron Cohen with race cars last summer in "Talladega Nights," Will Ferrell once again takes on the British comedian at the box office with "Stranger Than Fiction" which will try to stop the seemingly unstoppable "Borat" machine. In the PG-13 film, the funnyman plays an agent with the IRS who begins to hear a voice narrating his life and his every move. Emma Thompson provides the voice while Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, and Queen Latifah co-star. Directed by Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland," "Monster’s Ball"), "Stranger" takes an A-list comedian and puts him in a more mature and serious film that still has some comedic elements. That means that the 14-year-old boys who powered "Talladega Nights" to a $47M opening will take a pass this time around.

When Jim Carrey went arthouse, he saw "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" open to $8.2M with a $6,042 average and "Man on the Moon" bow to $7.5M with a $3,615 average. Adam Sandler‘s "Spanglish" debuted to $8.8M and a $3,617 average. It can often be a tough sell to take a comedian known mostly for mainstream comedies and put him into a more mature film, even if it still has laughs. "Stranger Than Fiction" might find it difficult to pull in teens and young adults, but mature adults will have interest. Reviews have been generally good and the concept makes the film stand out in the current marketplace. Competition for adults will come from both "Babel" and "A Good Year" while "Borat" will continue to steal away millions of moviegoers looking for a good laugh. Launching in 2,264 theaters, "Stranger Than Fiction" might open with roughly $16M.

Will Ferrell screaming at a bus in "Stranger Than Fiction."

Halloween may have passed but those in search of a scare, and were disappointed that "The Grudge 2" did not have Sarah Michelle Gellar in a full role, will have a chance to see their favorite vampire slayer in the new supernatural thriller "The Return." With a commercially friendly PG-13 rating, the spookfest finds Gellar playing a young businesswoman guided by mysterious forces to avenge her own death from a previous life. In the horror genre, Gellar is a bonafide star and can pull in teens and young adults. But with so many fright sequels cramming into theaters recently during the pre-pumpkin period, many genre fans might be all scared out by now. Luckily for "The Return," competition will not be too fierce as nothing else is exciting teenage girls at the moment. The marketing push has been decent, but in many ways it does not stand out as something special or unique that is worth seeing right away. Opening in 1,986 theaters, "The Return" might gross around $8M over the weekend.

Sarah Michelle Gellar, padding her horror credentials in "The Return."

Russell Crowe reteams with his "Gladiator" director Ridley Scott for a trip to a new genre (romantic comedy) in "A Good Year." The PG-13 film finds the former Maximus playing a financial guru who finds women and wine at a french vineyard he inherits. Talk about a tough sell. On paper, the Scott-Crowe combo is box office gold, only they chose to try out a type of film that will repel fans who spent $187.7M on the 2000 Best Picture Oscar winner. Plus the Fox release has no notable female star to boost its potential. Add to that the bad buzz that "Year" received at the Toronto Film Festival plus the mostly negative reviews from critics, and it surely will have its work cut out for it. Could this be "All the King’s Men" all over again?

"A Good Year" stands as that rare film which reunites an Oscar-caliber director with an Oscar-winning actor that earns bad reviews and lukewarm studio support. Crowe’s last film "Cinderella Man" bowed to $18.3M from 2,812 theaters for a $6,515 average in June of last year and was considered an underperformer. The actor’s latest picture lacks the Ron Howard film’s strong critical support, added starpower from Renee Zellweger, and sizable push from Universal. "A Good Year" should play mostly to adult female audiences as the male appeal is low. That makes "Babel" and "Stranger Than Fiction," which have better cross-gender appeal, direct competitors this weekend for mature couples. Opening in 2,066 theaters, "A Good Year" could find itself with about $8M this weekend and a rough road ahead.

Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott enter chick flick territory with "A Good Year."

Still in the top ten with "The Prestige," Christian Bale comes back for double duty in the new action thriller "Harsh Times" from MGM. The R-rated film from the writer of "Training Day" finds the Caped Crusader playing an ex-Army Ranger enlisting with the LAPD who still has ties into the crime world in South Central. "Harsh" will play to urban audiences and should skew male but will find the marketplace difficult to navigate with bigger titles like "Borat" and "Saw III" already doing strong business with that demo. Bale lacks the drawing power of Denzel Washington in his Oscar-winning role in "Training Day" so the grosses should not be in the same ballpark. A moderate national release in over 900 theaters will also limit the potential. "Harsh Times" will have to fight hard in order to crack the top ten and could finish the frame with around $3M.

Christian Bale as a psychopath in "Harsh Times."

Among holdovers, all eyes will be on "Borat" this weekend. Can the Kazakh superstar spend another weekend at number one? Following its robust $26.5M bow from 837 theaters, the Sacha Baron Cohen starrer has delivered solid midweek results grossing over $3M on both Monday and Tuesday. Now, Fox will expand the raunchy comedy on Friday by more than tripling the run to 2,565 theaters allowing everyone to have easy access to the most-talked-about film of the season. Word-of-mouth has been encouraging and "Borat" might even reach the Holy Grail of the box office – repeat business.

Last weekend’s potent average of $31,607 will certainly come crashing down since the film will be in more theaters and most of the hardcore fans have now already seen it. But the buzz is still hot and the Uzbekistan-hating TV journalist is now trying to crossover into new audience segments not initially sold on the concept last week. With the frame’s new films all a mixed bag without a surefire smash among them, "Borat" looks ready to retain its hold on the number one spot. A weekend gross of around $24M could result giving Fox a stellar $62M in only ten days.

"Kazakhstan is the greatest…"

Another cross-cultural film with a five-letter title starting with a B expanding over the weekend is "Babel" starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Paramount Vantage has attracted scorching results in limited release for two weeks and is now hoping that moviegoers nationwide are ready for the acclaimed drama. Last weekend, "Babel" popped into the Top 20 with a stellar $26,264 average from 35 locations. On Friday, the R-rated film expands to over 1,200 sites and should continue to play to an upscale adult audience.

"Babel" is likely to play to the same crowd that powered last December’s "Syriana" to a $11.7M bow from 1,752 theaters for a $6,699 average. That film had more theaters and a star, George Clooney, who is despised by many American moviegoers for his political beliefs. On the other hand, Pitt can cheat on his wife and father a baby with another woman, and the public still can’t get enough of him. That’s pure starpower. But "Babel" is not the type of commercial role that Pitt attracts large crowds to. Still, the average should be solid so given its level of distribution, "Babel" could gross about $10M this weekend.

Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, looking rather disheveled in "Babel."

Disney and Paramount went head to head last weekend with competing kidpics and split the family vote in half pretty evenly. "Flushed Away" is getting better word-of-mouth and is offering audiences something new so its decline might be smaller than that of "The Santa Clause 3." Kid movies opening in early November typically have good legs and enjoy strong second weekend holds. Sophomore drops for recent films of the genre include 21% for last year’s "Chicken Little," 29% for 2004’s "The Incredibles," 15% for 2003’s "Elf," and 15% for 2002’s "The Santa Clause 2." This weekend, "Clause 3" might drop by 25% and "Flushed" could wash away 20% leaving each with a three-day tally in the neighborhood of $15M. That would push ten-day cumes to roughly $39M a piece for the Mouse House pic and the rat toon.

LAST YEAR: Disney’s poultry toon "Chicken Little" stayed at number one for a second weekend with an impressive $31.7M. Three new releases followed within a tight range. Sony’s big-budget kidpic "Zathura" bowed in second with $13.4M on its way to a disappointing $28.2M. Jennifer Aniston was close behind with her thriller "Derailed" which opened to $12.2M. The Weinstein Co. release went on to gross a moderate $36M. Paramount’s urban action pic "Get Rich or Die Tryin’" debuted in fourth place with a $12M weekend and $17.7M over five days. The 50 Cent starrer finished its run with $31M. Rounding out the top five was the military drama "Jarhead" which tumbled 58% to $11.7M. Premiering to sensational results was the period film "Pride & Prejudice" which grossed $2.9M from only 215 theaters for a sizzling $13,326 average. The Focus release went on to become an awards contender and took in $38.4M making it the top-grossing pic among the weekend’s new films.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies brings us "The Break-Up," a hotly-anticipated dark comedy featuring two actors whose faces are criminally under-documented by the paparazzi. What do the critics say?

"The Break-Up:" This wouldn’t have happened if she just had a couple more pieces of flair.

Critical Consensus has had a couple bad breakups in the past. Fortunately, CC has some really good friends who are always available to provide pep talks. They have said, "Move on! Get over it! It’s all good!" Unfortunately for "The Break-Up," starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, the critics just can’t move on. They can’t get over it. The film, billed as an "anti-romantic comedy," tells the story of a couple in the final death spiral of a relationship, the inverse of typical Hollywood rom-com fare. It’s an intriguing idea (kinda like a Frat-Pack version of Bergman‘s "Scenes from a Marriage"), but the critics say that two of contemporary cinema’s most likeable actors stranded in a tonally schizophrenic plot with unfunny bickering that is simply hard to watch. At 22 percent on the Tomatometer, this one can’t catch a "Break."

"District B13:" Seriously kids, do not try this at home.

In limited release this week, French martial arts thriller "District B13" currently stands at 88 percent on the Tomatometer; the Iraq documentary "The War Tapes" is at 92 percent; indie comedy "The Puffy Chair" is at 75 percent; "Favela Rising," a doc about Brazilian political unrest, is at 60 percent; the Floridian noir "Coastlines" is at 50 percent; "Peaceful Warrior," starring a philosophical Nick Nolte, is at 40 percent; and the South Korean action thriller "Typhoon" is at 17 percent.

Recent Jennifer Aniston Movies:
68% — Friends with Money (2006)
21% — Derailed (2005)
18% — Rumor Has It (2005)
26% — Along Came Polly (2004)
51% — Bruce Almighty (2003)

Recent Vince Vaughn Movies:
69% — Thumbsucker (2005)
74% — Wedding Crashers (2005)
29% — Be Cool (2005)
70% — Dodgeball (2004)
63% — Starsky & Hutch (2004)

Buena Vista Home Entertainment’s "Chicken Little" easily crossed the road to the top spot on the national DVD sales chart for the week ended March 26, while New Line Home Entertainment’s "A History of Violence" remained the nation’s No. 1 rental for the second consecutive week.

According to Nielsen VideoScan data, "Chicken Little," the animated take on the classic sky-is-falling tale that grossed more than $135 million in theaters, outsold second-ranked "Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story," from Dreamworks Home Entertainment, by a nearly 4-to-1 margin.

Five other new releases bowed in the First Alert top 20: Genius Products’ "Derailed" at No. 4, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s "Capote" at No. 5, Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment’s complete seventh-season set of television’s "South Park" at No. 9, Lionsgate’s "In the Mix" at No. 10, and Paramount’s "Mind of Mencia: Uncensored Season 1" at No. 19.

The previous week’s top DVD seller, Warner Home Video’s "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," slipped to No. 3, while "A History of Violence" fell from No. 2 to No. 7.

Lionsgate’s "Crash" slipped to No. 13 from No. 9 the previous week, but the acclaimed film about race relations, which won the Oscar for best picture, has been in the First Alert top 20 for 16 weeks.

In rental stores, "A History of Violence" took in an additional $7.7 million its second week out to bring its total take so far to $17 million, or more than half its total box office earnings.

"Derailed" made a surprisingly strong showing, bowing at No. 2 on Home Media Retailing’s video rental chart for the week ended March 26 with estimated rental earnings of $6.6 million, 18% of its theatrical gross. The film, from The Weinstein Company, earned $36 million in theaters.

Despite its Oscar buzz, "Capote" could muster only a No. 3 debut on the rental chart, with earnings of $5.6 million, while "Chicken Little" clucked in at No. 7, with $3.9 million.

Author: THOMAS K. ARNOLD, Home Media Retailing

Popular actor John Cusack has signed on to star in the movie adaptation of Stephen King‘s short story "1408," says Variety. The story, which is available on King’s "Everything’s Eventual" compilation, will be adapted by the screenwriting team of Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski.

"John Cusack will star in the bigscreen adaptation of Stephen King’s short story "1408" for helmer Mikael Hafstrom, producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura and Dimension Films.

Penned by "The People vs. Larry Flynt" scribes Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, pic centers on a debunker of paranormal occurrences who encounters real terror when he checks into notorious Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel.

Pic will lense this summer. Location is yet to be determined.

"This film is so much a one-man show," Hafstrom told Daily Variety. "It’s quite a contained drama. It is a horror film if you want to put a label on it, but the way I see it, it’s much more an inner-journey of this character."

Mr. Hafstrom’s films include "Derailed" and "Ondskan." You know Scott & Larry from "Man on the Moon," "Problem Child," and "Ed Wood," among others.

Known for his enthusiasm for the movies if not for any artsy-pretentious leanings, CNN.com’s film critic Paul Clinton died Monday, January 30.

A fond eulogy from fellow CNN contributor Todd Leopold broke the news of Clinton’s death today; cause of death is reportedly natural causes, although Leopold notes Clinton’s history of smoking and recent ill health.

Clinton was known for his polarizing views on films; polarizing, in fact, not because of controversial comments or esoteric tastes, but because he was, perhaps, too nice. According to Leopold, he was unabashedly in for the thrill, the entertainment value, the "roller coaster rides and popcorn flicks" — but at the same time, aware of his own inclinations and position as a "barometer" for moviegoers to measure their own tastes against.

Of his reviews included in our Rotten Tomatoes database, Paul Clinton agreed with the Tomatometer 70 percent of the time, which leaves nearly 100 out of 328 reviews in which he went against the grain of popular opinion. As another Clinton retrospective article points out, this disregard for the consensus is an integral part of being a critic, and one thing that truly set him apart. Below is a sampling of Clinton’s proudly dissenting opinions.

"Is it Oscar bait? Not in the least. But it’s a great date flick and perfect for a time full of all those ‘serious’ films."

Casanova, 43%

"I’ve never seen the stage musical Rent, but the movie had me at hello."

Rent, 49%

"Derailed — a pure popcorn thriller — may find it hard to make a dent at the box office. But it is worth seeing."

Derailed, 21%

"If you want to see good performances and cinematography wasted in a mediocre movie, that would be North Country."

North Country, 70%

"Flightplan – – a heart-stopping thriller."

Flightplan, 37%

"Frankly, the entire film felt like the cinematic version of Hamburger Helper — too little meat trying to do too much."

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 89%

Another mark of Paul Clinton’s writing was his ability to concoct some highly entertaining reviews. Here’s a sampling of his critical witticisms, reserved for the worst that cinema had to offer.

"Watching A Sound of Thunder could possibly lower your IQ into the single digits."

A Sound of Thunder, 7%

"David Duchovny claims he wrote the screenplay for House of D in only six days. It shows."

House of D, 10%

"Hide and Seek really isn’t a suspense thriller at all. It’s a mystery movie. It’s always a mystery when highly talented people commit the time and effort to a film that is so obviously mediocre."

Hide and Seek, 14%

"If you think it’s funny, you may just be ‘special’ too."

Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, 10%

To read more highlights of Paul Clinton’s film reviews, check out his critic page, here.

Yesterday we got the year-end nominations from the Writers Guild and the Producers Guild, so simple logic dictates that today should bring news from the directors (DGA) and the actors (SAG). As always we thank Movie City News for divulging every single nomination on the planet.

Director’s Guild Nominations

George ClooneyGood Night, and Good Luck.

George Clooney’s Directorial Team:
Unit Production Manager: Barbara A. Hall
First Assistant Director: David Webb
Second Assistant Director: Melissa V. Barnes
Second Second Assistant Director: Richard Gonzales

Paul HaggisCrash

Paul Haggis’ Directorial Team:
Unit Production Manager: Betsy Danbury
First Assistant Director: Scott Cameron
Second Assistant Director: Simone Farber

Ang LeeBrokeback Mountain

Ang Lee’s Directorial Team:
Unit Production Managers: Scott Ferguson, Tom Benz
First Assistant Directors: Michael Hausman, Pierre Tremblay
Second Assistant Director: Donald Murphy
Second Second Assistant Director: Brad Moerke

Bennett MillerCapote

Bennett Miller’s Directorial Team:
Unit Production Managers: Ellen Rutter, Caroline Baron
First Assistant Directors: Ronaldo Nacionales, Richard O’Brien Moran
Second Assistant Director: Charles Crossin

Steven SpielbergMunich

Steven Spielberg’s Directorial Team:
Unit Production Manager: Ian Hickinbotham
First Assistant Director: Adam Somner
Second Second Assistant Director: Pierre Ellul

Additionally, Clint Eastwood will receive the DGA Lifetime Achievement Award

Screen Actors Guild Nominations


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Russell Crowe / CINDERELLA MAN
Philip Seymour Hoffman / CAPOTE
Joaquin Phoenix / WALK THE LINE
David Strathairn / GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Felicity Huffman / TRANSAMERICA
Charlize Theron / NORTH COUNTRY
Reese Witherspoon / WALK THE LINE

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Don Cheadle / CRASH
George Clooney / SYRIANA
Matt Dillon / CRASH
Paul Giamatti / CINDERELLA MAN

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams / JUNEBUG
Catherine Keener / CAPOTE
Frances McDormand / NORTH COUNTRY
Michelle Williams / BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Linda Cardellini – Cassie
Anna Faris – Lashawn Malone
Jake Gyllenhaal – Jack Twist
Anne Hathaway – Lureen Phillips
Heath Ledger – Ennis Del Mar
Randy Quaid – Joe Aguirre
Michelle Williams – Alma

CAPOTE (UA/Sony Pictures Classics)
Bob Balaban – William Shawn
Clifton Collins, Jr. – Perry Smith
Chris Cooper – Alvin Dewey
Bruce Greenwood – Jack Dunphy
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Truman Capote
Catherine Keener – Nelle Harper Lee
Mark Pellegrino – Dick Hickock

CRASH (Lions Gate Films)
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges – Anthony
Sandra Bullock – Jean Cabot
Don Cheadle – Graham
Matt Dillon – Officer Ryan
Jennifer Esposito – Ria
Brendan Fraser – Rick Cabot
Terrence Howard – Cameron Thayer
Thandie Newton – Christine Thayer
Ryan Phillippe – Thomas Hansen
Larenz Tate – Peter

GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. (Warner Independent Pictures)
Rose Abdoo – Millie Lerner
Alex Borstein – Natalie
Robert John Burke – Charlie Mack
Patricia Clarkson – Shirley Wershba
George Clooney – Fred Friendly
Jeff Daniels – Sig Mickelson
Reed Diamond – John Aaron
Tate Donovan – Jesse Zousmer
Robert Downey, Jr. – Joe Wershba
Grant Heslov – Don Hewitt
Peter Jacobson – Jimmy
Frank Langella – William Paley
Tom McCarthy – Palmer Williams
Diane Reeves – Jazz Singer
Matt Ross – Eddie Scott
David Strathairn – Edward R. Murrow
Ray Wise – Don Hollenbeck

HUSTLE & FLOW (Paramount Classics)
Anthony Anderson – Key
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges – Skinny Black
Isaac Hayes – Arnel
Taraji P. Henson – Shug
Terrence Howard -DJay
Taryn Manning – Nola
Elise Neal – Yevette
Paula Jai Parker – Lexus
D.J. Qualls – Shelby


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Kenneth Branagh / WARM SPRINGS – Franklin Delano Roosevelt (HBO)
Ted Danson / KNIGHTS OF THE SOUTH BRONX – David MacEnulty (A&E)
Ed Harris / EMPIRE FALLS – Miles Roby (HBO)
Paul Newman / EMPIRE FALLS – Max Roby (HBO)
Christopher Plummer / OUR FATHERS – Cardinal Bernard Law (Showtime)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Tonantzin Carmelo / INTO THE WEST – Thunder Heart Woman (TNT)
S. Epatha Merkerson / LACKAWANNA BLUES – Rachel “Nanny” Crosby (HBO)
Cynthia Nixon / WARM SPRINGS – Eleanor Roosevelt (HBO)
Joanne Woodward / EMPIRE FALLS – Francine Whiting (HBO)
Robin Wright Penn / EMPIRE FALLS – Grace Roby (HBO)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

Alan Alda / THE WEST WING – Arnold Vinick (NBC)
Patrick Dempsey / GREY’S ANATOMY – Dr. Derek Shepherd (ABC)
Hugh Laurie / HOUSE – Dr. Gregory House (FOX)
Ian McShane / DEADWOOD – Al Swearengen (HBO)
Kiefer Sutherland / 24 – Jack Bauer (FOX)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

Patricia Arquette / MEDIUM – Allison Dubois (NBC)
Geena Davis / COMMANDER IN CHIEF – Mackenzie Allen (ABC)
Mariska Hargitay / LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT – Det. Olivia Benson (NBC)
Sandra Oh / GREY’S ANATOMY – Dr. Cristina Yang (ABC)
Kyra Sedgwick / THE CLOSER – Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (TNT)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

Larry David / CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM – Himself (HBO)
Sean Hayes / WILL & GRACE – Jack McFarland (NBC)
Jason Lee / MY NAME IS EARL – Earl Hickey (NBC)
William Shatner / BOSTON LEGAL – Denny Crane (ABC)
James Spader / BOSTON LEGAL – Alan Shore (ABC)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

Candice Bergen / BOSTON LEGAL – Shirley Schmidt (ABC)
Patricia Heaton / EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND – Debra Barone (CBS)
Felicity Huffman / DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES – Lynette Scavo (ABC)
Megan Mullally / WILL & GRACE – Karen Walker (NBC)
Mary-Louise Parker / WEEDS – Nancy Botwin (Showtime)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

G.W. Bailey Det. – Lt. Provenza
Tony Denison – Det. Andy Flynn
Robert Gossett – Captain Taylor
Corey Reynolds – Sgt. David Gabriel
Kyra Sedgwick – Dep. Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson
J.K. Simmons – Asst. Chief Will Pope
Jon Tenney – FBI Agent Fritz Howard

Justin Chambers – Alex Karev
Patrick Dempsey – Derek Shepherd
Katherine Heigl – Isobel “Izzie” Stevens
T.R. Knight – George O’Malley
Sandra Oh – Cristina Yang
James Pickens, Jr. – Richard Webber
Ellen Pompeo – Meredith Grey
Kate Walsh – Addison Forbes Montgomery Shepherd
Isaiah Washington – Preston Burke
Chandra Wilson – Miranda Bailey

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje – Mr. Eko
Naveen Andrews – Sayid
Emilie de Ravin – Claire
Matthew Fox – Jack
Jorge Garcia – Hurley
Maggie Grace – Shannon
Josh Holloway – Sawyer
Malcolm David – Kelley Walt
Daniel Dae Kim – Jin
Yunjin Kim – Sun
Evangeline Lilly – Kate
Dominic Monaghan – Charlie
Terry O’Quinn – Locke
Harold Perrineau – Michael
Michelle Rodriguez – Ana Lucia
Ian Somerhalder – Boone
Cynthia Watros – Libby

Lauren Ambrose – Claire Fisher
Joanna Cassidy – Margaret Chenowith
Frances Conroy – Ruth Fisher
James Cromwell – George Sibley
Rachel Griffiths – Brenda Chenowith
Michael C. Hall – David Fisher
Tina Holmes – Maggie Sibley
Peter Krause – Nate Fisher
Justina Machado – Vanessa Diaz
Freddy Rodriguez – Federico Diaz
Jeremy Sisto – Billy Chenowith
Mathew St. Patrick – Keith Charles

Alan Alda – Arnold Vinick
Kristin Chenoweth – Annabeth Schott
Janeane Garofalo – Louise Thornton
Dulé Hill – Charlie Young
Allison Janney – C.J. Cregg
Joshua Malina – Will Bailey
Mary McCormack – Kate Harper
Janel Moloney – Donna Moss
Teri Polo – Helen Santos
Richard Schiff – Toby Ziegler
Martin Sheen – Josiah Bartlet
Jimmy Smits – Matthew Santos
John Spencer – Leo McGarry
Bradley Whitford – Josh Lyman

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

Will Arnett – Gob Bluth
Jason Bateman – Michael Bluth
Michael Cera – George-Michael Bluth
David Cross – Tobias Fünke
Portia de Rossi – Lindsay Bluth Fünke
Tony Hale – Buster Bluth
Alia Shawkat – Maeby Fünke
Jeffrey Tambor – George Bluth, Sr./Oscar Bluth
Jessica Walter – Lucille Bluth

Rene Auberjonois – Paul Lewiston
Ryan Michelle Bathe – Sara Holt
Candice Bergen – Shirley Schmidt
Julie Bowen – Denise Bauer
Justin Mentelli – Garrett Wells
Rhona Mitra – Tara Wilson
Monica Potter – Lori Colson
William Shatner – Denny Crane
James Spader – Alan Shore
Mark Valley – Brad Chase

Shelley Berman – Nat David
Larry David – Himself
Susie Essman – Susie Greene
Jeff Garlin – Jeff Greene
Cheryl Hines – Cheryl David
Richard Lewis – Himself

Roger Bart – George Williams
Andrea Bowen – Julie Mayer
Mehcad Brooks – Matthew Applewhite
Ricardo Antonio Chavira – Carlos Solis
Marcia Cross – Bree Van De Kamp
Steven Culp – Rex Van De Kamp
James Denton – Mike Delfino
Teri Hatcher – Susan Mayer
Felicity Huffman – Lynette Scavo
Brent Kinsman – Preston Scavo
Shane Kinsman – Porter Scavo
Eva Longoria – Gabrielle Solis
Mark Moses – Paul Young
Doug Savant – Tom Scavo
Nicollette Sheridan – Edie Britt
Brenda Strong – Mary Alice Young
Alfre Woodard – Betty Applewhite

Peter Boyle – Frank Barone
Brad Garrett – Robert Barone
Patricia Heaton – Debra Barone
Monica Horan – Amy McDougal-Barone
Doris Roberts – Marie Barone
Ray Romano – Raymond Barone
Madlyn Sweeten – Ally Barone

Jason Lee – Earl Hickey
Jaime Pressly – Joy Darville
Eddie Steeples – Darnell
Ethan Suplee – Randy Hickey
Nadine Velazquez – Catalina

Screen Actors Guild Awards 42st Annual Life Achievement Award — Shirley Temple Black

It’s no big shock that the fourth entry in the "Harry Potter" series was, far and away, the number one draw at the weekend box office. But the flick turned out to have the fourth biggest box office weekend in the history of moviedom: Harry snagged over $101 million from nearly 3,900 North American screens … in only three days!

Harry’s big weekend falls right behind "Spider-Man," "Revenge of the Sith," and "Shrek 2" for biggest openings ever.

Checking in at second place with a distant (yet fairly impressive) $22.4 million was James Mangold‘s Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line," which did fine business from just under 3,000 screens.

The rest of the top five consisted of hangers-on, including Disney’s "Chicken Little" ($14.7 million weekend; $99.1 million overall), the Weinsteins’ "Derailed" ($6.5m, $21.8m), and Sony’s "Zathura" ($5.1m, $20.2m).

But back to Mr. Potter for a second. Here’s how Variety breaks down some of the magically delicious numbers:

""Potter’s" perf shaved a point off the year’s overall B.O. deficit compared with 2004; it now stands at 6%.

Despite the first PG-13 rating for a "Potter" pic, demos for "Goblet of Fire" were similar to 2004’s "Azkaban." Kids made up 42% of the aud, with parents another 20% and non-family adults 38%.

"This is the biggest weekend in Warner Bros. history," noted WB distrib prexy Dan Fellman. "With three more (Potter pics) to go, we’re looking forward to leaving more marks in the record books."

"Potter" reached the stratosphere without setting any one-day records. First-day take of $39.4 million does tie it with "Spider-Man" for the biggest Friday ever, but that’s the seventh highest opening day in history.

In a promising sign for playability, "Goblet of Fire" declined only 10% to $35.5 million on Saturday.

The first three "Potter" pics bowed with, in order, $90.3 million, $88.4 million and $93.7 million, with the first two opening in November 2001 and 2002 and the third in June 2004.

"Goblet of Fire" made $2.8 million on 66 Imax screens over the weekend, giving it a per-play average of $42,951. That’s the highest ever in the giant-screen format, just beating the $2.7 million record set by "The Polar Express.""

As is usually the case, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving offers a whole bunch of new cinematic choices. The day after tomorrow sees the release of New Line’s rom-com "Just Friends," Sony’s long-awaited cinematic version of "Rent," Focus’ dark ensemble comedy "The Ice Harvest," the family farce "Yours, Mine and Ours," and a teen-centric crime comedy called "In the Mix."

For a closer look at Harry’s magical box office spell, take a visit to the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page. (And have a great holiday weekend!)

Disney’s "Chicken Little" managed to stay atop the box office charts for a second consecutive weekend, despite family-friendly competition of the outer space kind. "Little" added a big $32 million egg to an omelette presently worth $80.7 million, and the folks over at Disney Animation think the thing’s pretty delicious. Debuting in second place was Sony’s "Jumanji" in Space" adventure "Zathura," which tallied a fairly decent $14 million from 3,200 screens.

Third and fourth place also went to a pair of newcomers: The Weinstein’s thriller "Derailed" pulled in $12.8 million from 2,400 theaters, while Paramount’s 50-Center "Get Rich or Die Tryin’" tried just hard enough to net $12.5 million from over 1,600 theaters.

Universal’s "Jarhead" rounded out the top 5 by adding another $12.2 million to its $47 million war-chest.

Next weekend sees the release of only two wide-openers, but they’re both well-anticipated doozies: Fox will unleash the Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line," while Warner Bros. will have to be content an obscure little indie flick called "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

As always we invite you to stop by the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office page for a closer look at all the weekend numerals.

This week’s wide releases raise a number of questions. Is “Zathura” a game worth playing? Is 50 Cent‘s movie debut, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” the cinematic equivalent of a trip to the candy shop? Is “Derailed” a speedy locomotive, or is it true to its name? What do the critics have to say?

Zathura” is the third story by Rhode Island-based children’s book author Chris Van Allsburg to make the leap from the page to the big screen (the other two were “Jumanji” and last year’s “The Polar Express“). And critics say it’s the best of the bunch. “Zathura” tells the tale of a pair of squabbling brothers who must learn to work together after they are transported into space while playing the titular board game. According to the critics, the movie is solid family entertainment, with a real sense of adventure and wonder, emphasizing characters over the (not at all shabby) special effects. At 71 percent on the Tomatometer, “Zathura”‘s got game. And it beats “The Polar Bear Express,” which scored 56 percent on the Tomatometer, and “Jumanji,” at 48 percent.

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson has a life story that seems ready-made for cinematic treatment: he was a drug dealer, he survived a shooting, and he eventually became one of America’s biggest musical stars. But the critics say the semi-autobiographical “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” which features 50 in his acting debut, still feels like the stuff of many other rags-to-riches dramas. The scribes say even veteran director Jim Sheridan can’t make it fresh, despite an excellent supporting cast that includes the always-dependable Terrence Howard. At 16 percent on the Tomatometer, “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” can’t make a dollar out of 50 Cent. And it’s the worst-reviewed film of Sheridan’s career (beating out “The Field,” at 46 percent).

As the old saying goes, what a tangled web we weave, when we make a thriller about adultery and betrayal with lots of plot twists. “Derailed” tells the story of an extramarital affair gone terribly awry, after a very bad guy threatens the two trapped philanderers. The critics say the title is all too apt; the plot twists become more tangled as the film goes along, and Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston, in spite of their considerable skills, are miscast as, respectively, a schlubby family man and a fundamentally decent femme fatale. At 19 percent on the Tomatometer, the critics say “Derailed” has jumped the tracks.

Movies Starring Musicians Playing Musicians:
5% — Undiscovered (2005) – Starring Ashlee Simpson
81% — Hustle & Flow (2005) – Starring Ludacris
15% — Raise Your Voice (2004) – Starring Hilary Duff
76% — 8 Mile (2002) – Starring Eminem
7% — Glitter (2001) – Starring Mariah Carey
14% — Crossroads (2002) – Starring Britney Spears
24% — Duets (2000) – Starring Huey Lewis
32% — Black and White (1999) – Starring Raekwon
81% — Selena (1997) – Starring Jennifer Lopez
11% — Cool as Ice (1991) – Starring Vanilla Ice
70% — Purple Rain (1984) – Starring Prince

Disney’s first non-Pixar CG feature, "Chicken Little," had a lot to crow about over the weekend as it pecked an estimated $40 million out of the moviegoers pockets, giving it the #1 spot by about 12 million boks. (Sorry.) Coming in at second place was the surprisingly powerful "Jarhead," which pulled in about $28.7 million in its opening frame, which is a good deal more than anyone (including Universal) was expecting.

Third through fifth place went to a trio of holdovers: Lions Gate’s "Saw 2" added another $17.2 million to its $60 million piggy bank, while Sony’s "Zorro" sequel tallied an additional $10 million, giving it a total of approximately $30.2 million. Rounding out the top five was the romantic comedy "Prime," which managed to hold on in fairly impressive fashion, earning another $5.2 million to its $13.5 million total.

Next week sees the unleashing of three new wide releases: Jim Sheridan‘s 50 Cent flick "Get Rich or Die Tryin’" opens on Wednesday, while the Clive Owen/Jennifer Aniston thriller "Derailed" and the family-friendly sci-fi adventure "Zathura" will wait until Friday.

For a closer look at the weekend numbers, stop by the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page and poke around a little.

Working for Dimension Films, director Mikael Hafstrom and screenwriters Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski will bring Stephen King‘s short story "1408" to the big screen.

According to Variety, "Story revolves around a man specializing in debunking paranormal occurrences who meets his match when he checks into the notorious room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel. There, he encounters true terror.

The short story appeared in the King audio book "Blood and Smoke" and later in the King anthology "Everything’s Eventual," published in 2002."

Hafstrom is a Swedish filmmaker who makes his big Hollywood debut with next month’s "Derailed." Alexander & Karaszewski are a longtime writing team who collaborated to bring you "Problem Child," "Ed Wood," "That Darn Cat," "The People vs. Larry Flynt," "Man on the Moon," "Screwed," and "Agent Cody Banks."

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