Monday, January 29, 2007

Box Office Report: Jan. 26-28

Debut films took the top two spots for the weekend, holding off any potential ripple effects of Oscar nominations, as “Epic Movie” and “Smokin’ Aces” finished first and second, respectively. Critical response was mostly negative for “Aces” while “Epic Movie” wasn’t even screened for critics. But an early glance at the Rotten Tomatoes Web site today shows a rating of 0 percent for "Epic," if that gives you any indication as what the early word is. But I’m sure the makers of the film will gladly take their $18.6 million and laugh all the way to the bank. Of course, they may be the only ones laughing.

Meanwhile, “Night at the Museum” continues its incredibly strong run, as it nears $400 million in worldwide box office receipts.

1. “Epic Movie”
(Weekend domestic gross - $18.6 million)
(Worldwide gross - $18.6 million)
(Budget - N/A)
2. “Smokin’ Aces”
(Weekend domestic gross - $14.6 million)
(Worldwide gross - $21.3 million)
(Budget - $17 million)
3. “Night at the Museum”
(Weekend domestic gross - $9.6 million)
(Worldwide gross - $391.8 million)
(Budget - N/A)
4. “Stomp the Yard”
(Weekend domestic gross - $7.69 million)
(Worldwide gross - $50.5 million)
(Budget - $14 million)
5. “Catch and Release”
(Weekend domestic gross - $7.66 million)
(Worldwide gross - $7.66 million)
(Budget - $25 million)
6. “Dreamgirls”
(Weekend domestic gross - $6.7 million)
(Worldwide gross - $90.4 million)
(Budget - N/A)
7. “The Pursuit of Happyness”
(Weekend domestic gross - $5.0 million)
(Worldwide gross - $201.1 million)
(Budget - $55 million)
8. “Pan’s Labyrinth”
(Weekend domestic gross - $4.8 million)
(Worldwide gross - $42.5 million)
(Budget - $19 million)
9. “The Queen”
(Weekend domestic gross - $4.0 million)
(Worldwide gross - $80.0 million)
(Budget - N/A)
10. “The Hitcher”
(Weekend domestic gross - $3.6 million)
(Worldwide gross - $13.4 million)
(Budget - N/A)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

DVD Releases - Jan. 30

“Catch a Fire” (PG-13) - Largely overlooked in theaters, this fact-based thriller is set in 1980s South Africa, as Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke) is wrongly accused of sabotaging an oil refinery where he works. The government’s treatment of him and his family leads to Chamusso becoming a guerilla working to fight apartheid. Tim Robbins co-stars in this film directed by Philip Noyce (“Clear and Present Danger”).
Extras: Commentary including Luke, Robbins, Noyce and Chamusso himself, and deleted scenes.
Official Web site

“Flyboys: Collector’s Edition” (PG-13) - This action flick follows the exploits of the Lafayette Escadrille, a group of young Americans who volunteered to fly with the French military prior to the United States entering World War I. James Franco, Philip Winchester and Jean Reno are among the stars in this special effects-filled movie.
Extras: This two-disc collection includes audio commentary from director Tony Bill and producer Dean Devlin, numerous featurettes on various aspects of the production and deleted scenes.
Official Web site

“I Dream of Jeannie: Season 3” - Jeannie (Barbara Eden) and Major Nelson (Larry Hagman) are back for the third season, which consisted of 26 episodes, including several shot on location in Hawaii and the debut of Jeanie’s evil twin sister.
Extras: Well, no, unless “bonus previews” count.
No official Web site.

“Law and Order: Special Victims Unit: Season 3” - The third season of the “Law and Order” spin-off series that has become the most popular of them all at this point, makes it DVD debut. Oddly enough, “Law and Order” seems to like releasing their DVDs out of order, as season five has actually been out for more than two years. Well, that makes sense. Christopher Meloni, Mariska Hargitay, Ice-T and Richard Belzer star.
Extras: Nothing. Cha-chung!
Official Web site

“Open Season” (PG) - Yes, it’s another animated talking animal movie, but this one’s got Ashton Kutcher! He voices a deer who teams up with a giant domesticated grizzly bear (voiced by Martin Lawrence) as they try to outsmart hunters, just as open season begins.
Extras: Filmmakers commentary, deleted scenes, a music video, a “Wheel of Fortune” Forest Edition game, and much more.
Official Web site

“The Silence of the Lambs: Collector’s Edition” (R) - The Oscar-winning thriller gets a new release in what is at least its third incarnation on DVD. I’m not sure, but could this have anything to do with the pending release of “Hannibal Rising” in movie theaters Feb. 9? Crass cross-promotion? Perish the thought!
Extras: A making-of documentary, multiple featurettes, lots of deleted scenes, an outtakes reel and an Anthony Hopkins phone message.
No official Web site.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Best of the Bad

Now in its 27th year (an unbelievable accomplishment in and of itself), the annual Golden Raspberry Awards, better known as the Razzies, also released its list of nominees the day before the Oscars. Of course, this is one group of nominees you’d be hopeful to stay clear of, if you consider yourself a well respected and hard working person in Hollywood.

While the Oscars annually salute the best in films, the Razzies shine a glaring spotlight on what they consider the dregs of the previous year in motion pictures.

As you’ll see by the following list, there’s certainly no mercy rule in operation here, as some of the movies were slapped with multiple nominations. Even certain actors got multiple nominations for what the Razzies saw as a real dubious distinction in bad acting.

By the way, the Razzies will be handed out at the Ivar Theatre in Hollywood on Feb. 24 – one night before the Oscars telecast on ABC at The Kodak Theatre. I would expect just a few more stars to show up at that Feb. 25 awards show, but there have been appearances by notables at the Razzies – including Oscar-winner Halle Berry in 2005. (She was “honored” for her work in “Catwoman,” graciously accepting her award with good humor.)

Here’s this year’s lucky batch of victims, I mean, nominees. For more info, visit

Worst Picture
“Basic Instinct 2”
“Lady In The Water”
“Little Man”
“The Wicker Man”

Anybody who has actually subjected themselves to watching all five of these films deserves some sort of a medal, or perhaps some serious therapy. I can proudly say I haven’t seen any of them. As I consider myself a movie critic, I should feel a bit guilty about that, but I don’t. I’m sure there will come a day when I might see one or two of them, but it won’t be “Little Man,” which looks just plain creepy.

Worst Actor
Tim Allen
“The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause,”
“The Shaggy Dog” and “Zoom”

Nicolas Cage
“The Wicker Man”

Larry The Cable Guy (Dan Whitney)
“Larry The Cable Guy: Health Inspector”

Rob Schneider
“The Benchwarmers” and “Little Man”

Marlon Wayans & Shawn Wayans
“Little Man”

Tim Allen had a hell of a year, starring in three stinkers. However, two of them actually did modest business at the box office, while “Zoom” did exactly that out of theatres. The least surprising nominee? Larry The Cable Guy. But at least he proved he can do good voiceover work as a tow truck in “Cars.”

Worst Actress
Hilary Duff & Haylie Duff
“Material Girls”

Lindsay Lohan
“Just My Luck”

Kristanna Loken

Jessica Simpson
“Employee Of The Month”

Sharon Stone
“Basic Instinct 2”

I have a feeling that Jessica Simpson is crafting out a career that might be built on Razzie nominations, provided she acts in at least one film a year. Meanwhile, Sharon Stone’s appearance here was almost a foregone conclusion, as “Basic Instinct 2” makes it into just about every category this year.

Worst Supporting Actor
Danny DeVito
“Deck The Halls”

Ben Kingsley

M. Night Shyamalan
“Lady In The Water”

Martin Short
“Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause”

David Thewlis
“Basic Instinct 2” and “The Omen”

Didn’t Ben Kingsley win an Oscar for “Gandhi” back in the early 1980s? Between his appearance here in “Bloodrayne” and a couple of years ago in “Thunderbirds,” I’m thinking the Academy might want to consider taking the Oscar back.

Worst Supporting Actress
Kate Bosworth
“Superman Returns”

Kristin Chenoweth
“Deck The Halls,” “Pink Panther” and “RV”

Carmen Electra
“Date Movie” and “Scary Movie 4”

Jenny McCarthy
“John Tucker Must Die”

Michelle Rodriguez

It would seem a bit unfair, as she’s evidently got a stellar resume on Broadway, but Kristin Chenoweth's film career wouldn’t seem to be as well received, based on her getting a nomination for three films in this category. While she was not a strong point of the film, Kate Bosworth’s appearance here would seem a bit unnecessary, in my opinion.

Worst Screen Couple
Tim Allen & Martin Short
“Santa Clause 3”

Nicolas Cage & His Bear Suit
“The Wicker Man”

Hilary & Haylie Duff
“Material Girls”

Sharon Stone's Lopsided Breasts
“Basic Instinct 2”

Shawn Wayans & EITHER
Kerry Washington OR
Marlon Wayans
“Little Man”

Obviously, the chemistry between the cast of “Little Man” was not perceived to be very strong, while the category also takes a low (or is that high?) shot at Sharon Stone’s chest. As for the Nicolas Cage nomination, your guess is as good as mine.

Worst Remake or Rip-Off
“Little Man” (Rip-off of the 1954 Bugs Bunny cartoon "Baby Buggy Bunny")
“Pink Panther”
“The Shaggy Dog”
“The Wicker Man”

The Bugs Bunny cartoon resemblance was noticeable to me from the first time I heard about “Little Man.” Good to see somebody else calling them out on it. The remainder of the films were simply unnecessary remakes. However, I wouldn’t count out the likelihood of seeing more from “The Shaggy Dog” and “Pink Panther,” based on their box office performance.

Worst Prequel or Sequel
“Basic Instinct 2”
“Big Momma's House 2”
“Garfield 2: A Tail Of Two Kitties”
“Santa Clause 3”
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning”

One can only hope these latest editions of movie franchises will also be the last. Makes you wonder where all the money that was sunk into these films could have gone instead.

Worst Director
Uwe Boll

Michael Caton-Jones
“Basic Instinct 2”

Ron Howard
“The Da Vinci Code”

M. Night Shyamalan
“Lady In The Water”

Keenan Ivory Wayans
“Little Man”

It seems a bit unfair that Ron Howard is singled out for his job on “The Da Vinci Code,” the only nomination the film received. But then again, the movie made over $700 million worldwide, so I doubt he cares too much. Good to see Uwe Boll here again, he of the constantly crappy movies based on video games.

Worst Screenplay
“Basic Instinct 2”
Screenplay by Leora Barish & Henry Bean
Based on Characters Created by Joe Eszterhas

Screenplay by Guinevere Turner, Based on the Video Game

“Lady In The Water”
Written by M. Night Shyamalan

“Little Man”
Written by Keenan Ivory Wayans, Marlon Wayans and Shawn Wayans

“The Wicker Man”
Screenplay Adapted by Neil LaBute
from a Screenplay by Anthony Schaffer

Clearly, Neil LaBute and M. Night Shyamalan should be a bit embarrassed to be nominated here, as both have done standout work in the past and have the talent to do so again. Maybe this will be the motivation for them to do so.

Worst Excuse for Family Entertainment
“Deck The Halls”
“Garfield 2: A Tail Of Two Kitties”
“Santa Clause 3”
“The Shaggy Dog”

In what is a new category this year, subjecting your kids to all of these films would clearly be determined to be child abuse in any court of law. If you haven’t done so, introduce them to the fine movies made by Pixar, or the classics produced by Disney. Or, better yet, read them a book.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

And The Nominees Are ...

The annual ritual of Hollywood’s early, early morning announcement of the nominees for the Academy Awards has arrived and the speculation can finally end. With no clear cut favorites heading into the awards season a couple of months ago, numerous movies had taken home some honors leading towards the Jan. 23 event, when the full list of Oscar nominees could be revealed. And for those looking for a few surprises mixed in with the highly expected cavalcade of nominees, the Academy certainly didn’t disappoint. Visit here for a complete list of the nominees.

The following is a roundup of some of the major categories and an early look at the prospects for some of the nominees.

“The Departed”
“Letters from Iwo Jima”
“Little Miss Sunshine”
“The Queen”

The surprise in this category is the omission of “Dreamgirls,” which had garnered a lot of critical acclaim and an armful of awards in recent weeks. Previous big budget musicals such as “Moulin Rouge” and especially recent Best Picture winner “Chicago” had made a splash with the Academy. So, while “Dreamgirls” earned numerous nominations in other categories, including three (!) for Best Original Song alone, it will miss out on a chance at the top prize.

Clint Eastwood, “Letters From Iwo Jima”
Stephen Frears, “The Queen”
Paul Greengrass, “United 93”
Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, “Babel”
Martin Scorsese, “The Departed”

Continuing a seemingly normal trend from the Academy, not all the Best Picture nominees snag Best Director nominations, as Paul Greengrass slips in ahead of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris for their work on “Little Miss Sunshine.” Of course, maybe the Academy isn’t keen on singling out work taken on by two people, instead of one. On paper, this would seem to be a showdown between two stalwart directors, Eastwood and Scorsese. Could this finally be Marty’s year?

Leonardo DiCaprio, “Blood Diamond”
Ryan Gosling, “Half Nelson”
Peter O’Toole, “Venus”
Will Smith, “The Pursuit of Happyness”
Forest Whittaker, “The Last King of Scotland”

Interestingly enough, not one of the performances honored in this category is featured in a Best Picture nominee. That said, there’s plenty of good work on display here, with Forest Whittaker having been victorious in many awards ceremonies leading up to now.

Penelope Cruz, “Volver”
Judi Dench, “Notes on a Scandal”
Helen Mirren, “The Queen”
Meryl Streep, “The Devil Wears Prada”
Kate Winslet, “Little Children”

Snagging her record-setting 14th nomination, Meryl Streep is also the lone American in this category, as she’ll go up against some very formidable competition, led by Helen Mirren, who is undoubtedly the favorite.

Alan Arkin, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Jackie Earle Haley, “Little Children”
Djimon Hounsou, “Blood Diamond”
Eddie Murphy, “Dreamgirls”
Mark Wahlberg, “The Departed”

In what maybe the most eclectic group of nominees, Eddie Murphy would seem to be the sentimental favorite in the category, but it’s good to see Mark Wahlberg and Jackie Earle Haley get some love from the Academy, too. For those not familiar with Haley, if you’ve ever seen the 1976 version of “The Bad News Bears,” you’ll know him better as rebellious outfielder Kelly Leak.

Adriana Barraza, “Babel”
Cate Blanchett, “Notes on a Scandal”
Abigail Breslin, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Jennifer Hudson, “Dreamgirls”
Rinko Kikucki, “Babel”

Jennifer Hudson has practically swept all the supporting actress awards leading up to the Oscars for her work in “Dreamgirls,” in what is her movie debut. So, she’s the odds on pick, but kudos to the Academy for handing out a nomination to 10-year-old Abigail Breslin.

“Letters from Iwo Jima”
“Little Miss Sunshine”
“The Queen”
“Pan's Labyrinth”

There’s no clear cut favorite in this category, or so it seems. But a win for “Letters from Iwo Jima” would make it two years in a row in the same category for Paul Haggis, who earned an Oscar last year for his work on “Crash.”

”Children of Men”
“The Departed”
“Little Children”
“Notes on a Scandal”

You’ve got some heavy material with some very adult situations in this category, but then again, you’ve also got “Borat” here. While its a bit disappointing that Sacha Baron Cohen didn’t get a Best Actor nod for his fearless performance as the title character, at least the Academy didn’t ignore the film altogether.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Box Office Report: Jan. 19-21

It was overall a weak performance at the box office over the weekend, as “Stomp the Yard” held off the long lasting “Night at the Museum” for the top spot. The only new film to make any real impact on the chart, “The Hitcher,” ultimately performed below expectations, taking in less than $8 million.

“Museum” continues to perform very well, even as the holidays have passed, and has now taken in more than $350 million worldwide.

1. “Stomp the Yard”
(Weekend domestic gross - $12.3 million)
(Worldwide gross - $40.6 million)
(Budget - $14 million)
2. “Night at the Museum”
(Weekend domestic gross - $12.0 million)
(Worldwide gross - $356.2 million)
(Budget - N/A)
3. “Dreamgirls”
(Weekend domestic gross - $8.0 million)
(Worldwide gross - $78.5 million)
(Budget - N/A)
4. “The Hitcher”
(Weekend domestic gross - $7.8 million)
(Worldwide gross - $7.8 million)
(Budget - N/A)
5. “The Pursuit of Happyness”
(Weekend domestic gross - $6.3 million)
(Worldwide gross - $177.3 million)
(Budget - $55 million)
6. “Freedom Writers”
(Weekend domestic gross - $5.2 million)
(Worldwide gross - $26.5 million)
(Budget - $21 million)
7. “Pan’s Labyrinth”
(Weekend domestic gross - $4.5 million)
(Worldwide gross - $35.9 million)
(Budget - $19 million)
8. “Children of Men”
(Weekend domestic gross - $3.7 million)
(Worldwide gross - $60.5 million)
(Budget - $76 million)
9. “The Queen”
(Weekend domestic gross - $3.4 million)
(Worldwide gross - $71.8 million)
(Budget - N/A)
10. “Arthur and the Invisibles”
(Weekend domestic gross - $3.1 million)
(Worldwide gross - $63.3 million)
(Budget - $86 million)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

DVD Releases - Jan. 23

“The Guardian” (PG-13) - Kutcher looks to take another step away from Kelso, his doofus character he played for several seasons on TV’s “That ‘70’s Show,” with this action pic about Coast Guard rescue swimmers. Playing a young hotshot (imagine that!) training under Costner, the film will draw the inevitable “Top Gun”-type comparisons. Andrew Davis (“The Fugitive”) directs this film that was a modest box office success.
Extras: Commentary with Davis and screenwriter Ron L. Brinkerhoff, deleted scenes, an alternate ending and a tribute to real-life Coast Guard rescuers.
Official Web site

“Jesus Camp” (PG-13) - Documentary filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady follow the story of three youngsters who go to Pastor Becky Fischer’s “Kids on Fire Summer Camp” in North Dakota, which teaches kids to become dedicated Christians in “God’s army.” The film examines the training ground that turns born-again Christian children into active participants in the future direction of America.
Extras: Deleted scenes and commentary with Ewing and Grady.
Official Web site

“Saw III” (R/Unrated) - For the third straight year, the nasty villain Jigsaw returned to theaters with a box office hit. The horror franchise seems to be showing little signs of slowing down, despite the glut of horror movies hitting the market every month.
Extras: Multiple commentary tracks, deleted scenes and several featurettes.
Official Web site

“Sherrybaby” (R) - Maggie Gyllenhaal received rave reviews for her performance as a recovering drug addict fresh out of prison attempting to get her life going in the right direction. With a 5-year-old daughter to raise, she finds changing her life for the better a greater challenge than originally anticipated.
Extras: Nothing, baby.
Official Web site

“This Film is Not Yet Rated” (Unrated) - In this entertaining and provocative documentary, filmmaker Kirby Dick takes aim at the ratings board of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and its seemingly subjective form of censorship. Filled with interviews of other filmmakers who’ve tangled with the MPAA, Dick also employs the use of a private detective to uncover the identities of the board members, heretofore a clandestine group.
Extras: Apparently none.
Official Web site

Oscar's Coming

For those who keep tabs on such things, the nominations for the Academy Awards will be released on Tuesday, with a wide open field for Best Picture expected. Normally, I would have documented a wrap-up of the Golden Globes by now. Problem is, I didn't even see the awards show (thank you very much, ice storm!), so there won't be one this year. However, I do plan on doing an analysis of the Oscar nominations shortly after their announcement, so stay tuned for that.

One note about the ice storm: My previous post said the storm was Jan. 11-13; actually, it was Jan. 12-14. A sense of time is one thing that quickly goes when you're in the cold and dark, being kept awake by crashing tree limbs and exploding transformers. It's an experience I'd just as soon not have again.

Anywho, enough about that nasty storm for now ... let's get ready for the Oscars!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Let There Be Light

For those wondering where the heck the updates on this site have been lately, there's no need to look beyond the severe ice storm that tore through my neck of the woods Jan. 11-13. Power was knocked out at my house that first night and was restored some six days later. There will be more on my thoughts regarding the most costly winter storm to hit the Springfield area in its history later next week, but I'll try to give some entertainment info by weekend's end. (That's the real reason you're visiting this site, after all.)

Of course, there is a potentially nasty winter storm coming this way over the weekend, so keep your fingers crossed that I'll still have the power (literally) to make more updates in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It's An Honor Just To Be Nominated ...

A local Springfield, Mo., blogging group has nominated candidates in 10 categories for the Blogaroni Awards. Lo and behold, Entertain Me snagged a nomination in the Entertainment Blog of the Year category.

This is a pleasantly surprising development, with awards to be presented at a Springfield bloggers meeting in February. Some thanks must go to Larry Litle at Simple Thoughts of a Complex Mind for compiling the list of nominees.

Mmmmm, Blogaroni.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

DVD Releases - Jan. 9

“Crank” (R) - Well, you can certainly throw logic out the window with this frenetic action flick about an assassin (Jason Statham) poisoned by one of his rivals. The poison requires the assassin to keep his adrenaline pumping so that his heart rate doesn’t slow down, thereby killing him. He uses his newfound need for action as a chance to try and track down his would be killer. It’s like “Speed,” only inside a human body. Oh, and no Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper.
Extras: An audio commentary, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew.
Official Web site

“Extras: Season 1” - From the clever comic minds of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (creators of the original BBC version of “The Office”) comes a look at the fringe of the entertainment business, as an out-of-work actor (Gervais) desperately tries to catch a break. The second season is set to debut later this month on HBO, but this release offers a good chance for people to see the sometimes painfully funny situations Gervais finds himself in. It also features some standout guest appearances by Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Stiller and most notably, Kate Winslet.
Extras: A behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes and outtakes.
Official Web site

“The Illusionist” (PG-13) - Two of the best actors in the business, Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti star in this suspenseful film about Eisenheim, an illusionist (Norton) in early 20th century Vienna who spellbinds audiences and captures the heart of a childhood love (Jessica Biel). Problem is, she’s the fiancee of a Crown Prince (Rufus Sewell), who enlists the aid of an inspector to expose Eisenheim as a fraud. It’s tough to go wrong with Norton and Giamatti heading up your cast and director Neil Burger shows a deft touch with the look and atmosphere of the film.
Extras: Audio commentary with Burger, a making of featurette and interview with Biel.
Official Web site

“The Night Listener” (R) - Inspired by true events, Robin Williams stars as a writer and talk radio host, who initially is captivated by the story told by one of his callers. That leads to him seeking out the identity of the caller and the truth behind his mysterious tale. Toni Collette and Sandra Oh co-star in this suspense drama.
Extras: A deleted scene and a featurette.
Official Web site

Monday, January 08, 2007

Box Office Report: Jan. 5-7

Newcomers to the box office charts fell considerably short of challenging the “Night at the Museum” or “The Pursuit of Happyness,” which are spending their third straight weekend holding down the top two spots. Worldwide, “Museum” is pushing towards $250 million, making it a veritable blockbuster.

Critically-acclaimed “Children of Men,” starring Clive Owen and Julianne Moore, took third place with $10.2 million, after going into wide release. “Freedom Writers,” with Hilary Swank, was the only other film to have any box office impact, taking in $9.4 million.

1. “Night at the Museum”
(Weekend domestic gross - $23.7 million)
(Worldwide gross - $238.8 million)
(Budget - N/A)
2. “The Pursuit of Happyness”
(Weekend domestic gross - $12.9 million)
(Worldwide gross - $124.0 million)
(Budget - $55 million)
3. “Children of Men”
(Weekend domestic gross - $10.2 million)
(Worldwide gross - $44.8 million)
(Budget - $76 million)
4. “Freedom Writers”
(Weekend domestic gross - $9.4 million)
(Worldwide gross - $9.4 million)
(Budget - $21 million)
5. “Dreamgirls”
(Weekend domestic gross - $8.7 million)
(Worldwide gross - $54.3 million)
(Budget - N/A)
6. “Happily N’Ever After”
(Weekend domestic gross - $6.61 million)
(Worldwide gross - $6.6 million)
(Budget - $85 million)
7. “Charlotte’s Web”
(Weekend domestic gross - $6.60 million)
(Worldwide gross - $81.3 million)
(Budget - $85 million)
8. “The Good Shepherd”
(Weekend domestic gross - $6.4 million)
(Worldwide gross - $48.3 million)
(Budget - N/A)
9. “Rocky Balboa”
(Weekend domestic gross - $6.0 million)
(Worldwide gross - $60.6 million)
(Budget - $24 million)
10. “We Are Marshall”
(Weekend domestic gross - $4.9 million)
(Worldwide gross - $35.2 million)
(Budget - N/A)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Movie Review: "The Pursuit of Happyness"

Starring Will Smith, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, Thandie Newton, Brian Howe, James Karen
Directed by Gabriele Muccino

Official Web site

Previously garnering an Oscar nomination for his dramatic work as Muhammad Ali in 2001’s “Ali,” Will Smith should deservedly snag a second one for his performance as a financially struggling father in “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Asked to carry most of the movie on his shoulders, Smith is largely up to the task. Yet even he isn’t able to lift the film to the great heights for which it desires to reach.

Based on the real-life success story of Chris Gardner, “The Pursuit of Happyness” chooses to follow the rough stretch in Gardner’s life where finding enough money to get through the day was a struggle. Taking place in San Francisco around 1981, Chris has a young son (Jaden Christopher Syre Smith) to raise, along with his wife Linda, (Thandie Newton) who’s depressed and fed up with their dire situation. Specifically, she’s aggravated at her husband’s heavy investment in portable bone density scanners, which he peddles to every doctor and hospital in the San Francisco area. His sales are going badly and the bills are piling up, leading to Linda leaving him and their son to fend for themselves.

Newton does the best she can with the character, but she essentially doesn’t serve as much more than a complainer and ego crusher. Her exit from the film isn’t really dwelled on much and is portrayed as more of a minor inconvenience.

But the problems for Chris are far from over at that point, as he’s soon evicted from his apartment and forced to spend a night in jail for unpaid parking tickets. Realizing he needs to change the direction of his life quickly, Chris applies for and is accepted into an internship program for Dean Witter. The problem is, there is no pay for the internship, forcing Chris into more financial hardships, leading to staying at homeless shelters.

In one well played sequence, Chris and his son, battling exhaustion and no viable options, are forced to spend the night sleeping in a subway station bathroom. Smith hits the right tone for these scenes, portraying a father trying to shield his son from signs of fear and shame over their predicament. The movie also does a commendable job at showing the thin line that many people in society have to walk when living from paycheck to paycheck.

Aside from his son, who is a constant source of motivation for Chris, it helps that he’s also a very intelligent and determined worker, which catches the attention of his supervisors in the program. But as the movie clearly demonstrates (a bit too many times), every step forward that Chris seems to take during the struggling period of his life is soon accompanied by a step back. Still, perseverance is a strong character trait in Chris, and one that he tries to instill in his son by instructing him to not let people tell him he can’t do something. Yes, it’s a cliched statement and yes, the instruction comes out in a bit of a cliched scene, but the real-life father and son bring a bit more weight to the scene than it probably read on the page.

As most people will know the outcome of the movie’s story going in, “The Pursuit of Happyness” is less interested in the end result than in the journey at reaching it. Any success that the closing sequences muster are a credit to Smith’s portrayal of a man who has earned those tears of joy. But the unevenness of the script makes it unclear whether the movie will have earned yours by the time the credits roll.

Grade: B
(Rated PG-13 for profanity.)

What’s Next
Will Smith - Set to star in “I Am Legend,” a sci-fi film from director Francis Lawrence about the last survivor of a virus in post-apocalyptic New York fending off attacks from vampires. Release is scheduled for late 2007.

Thandie Newton - Will be playing the object of a nerd’s affections in the Eddie Murphy comedy, “Norbit,” set to be released Feb. 9.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Winter 2007 Movie Preview

The beginning of the year in the movie industry is usually one of uncertainty. It’s not usually a very profitable time for the studios, as filmgoers, perhaps burned out on the holidays, don’t frequent theaters nearly as much during the first couple of months. Whether the less busy or inconsistent quality of films that gets released during that period is a cause or effect of the low audience turnout is debatable.

At any rate, this time of year for Hollywood is by turns, a place where good films that just didn’t find a home in the cushier summer or fall movie seasons can get exposure, while also serving as a dumping ground for other pictures. In the latter case, studios usually have little to no confidence in the box office performance of the film. Time will tell which category, if any, the following films will best fit in.

So here’s a look at what January and February will present for those who still have a little money to spare after the holidays. As usual, release dates are subject to change.

“Code Name: The Cleaner”

Starring Cedric the Entertainer, Lucy Liu, Nicolette Sheridan, Mark Dacascos and Will Patton
Directed by Les Mayfield

Cedric the Entertainer stars in this action comedy as a seemingly ordinary guy who suffers from amnesia after being attacked by assailants. This leads to him believing he is an undercover spy. (Jan. 5)
Official Web site

“Happily N’Ever After”
Starring the voices of Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Andy Dick, Wallace Shawn, Patrick Warburton, George Carlin and Sigourney Weaver
Directed by Paul J. Bolger

Fairy Tale Land is in danger of being taken over by a gang of villains, led by an evil stepmother (Sigourney Weaver), leading to a resistance effort spurred by a ragtag collection of humans and animals. This animated film is from a couple of the producers of the “Shrek” films, to which it bears more than a passing resemblance. (Jan. 5)
Official Web site

“Freedom Writers”
Starring Hilary Swank, Scott Glenn, Imelda Staunton, Patrick Dempsey, Mario
Directed by Richard LaGravenese

Oscar-winner Swank is in the lead as a high school English teacher trying to inspire an ethnically diverse group of students to make something of their lives. Certainly the type of story that has been tackled before, but with good results, such as “Stand and Deliver” and “Dangerous Minds.” (Jan. 5)
Official Web site

“Alpha Dog”
Starring Ben Foster, Shawn Hatosy, Emile Hirsch, Sharon Stone, Justin Timberlake, Anton Yelchin and Bruce Willis
Directed by Nick Cassavetes

Accused killer Jesse James Hollywood is the subject of this drama written and directed by Cassavetes, that has found itself in a unique position of having its release challenged by lawyers of the defendant, who are charging that the movie will pollute the jury pool. The suspect was actually captured this year after several years on the run from authorities. So far, it looks like the film will make its release date in January. (Jan. 12)
Official Web site

“The Hitcher”
Starring Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton, Neal McDonough
Directed by Dave Meyers

A collegiate couple (Bush and Knighton) see their spring break plans go terribly awry when they cross paths with a hitchhiker (Bean) who decides to make them really, really wish they hadn’t stopped to pick him up. In case you’re wondering (or even care), this is a remake of the 1986 film starring C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rutger Hauer. I guess there’s just not enough horror movie stories to go around that there would be a need to remake mediocre ones. (Jan. 19)
Official Web site

“Catch and Release”
Starring Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant, Kevin Smith, Sam Jaeger, Fiona Shaw and Juliette Lewis
Directed by Susannah Grant

Having had success writing “Erin Brokovich” a few years ago, Grant decides to step into the director’s chair with this tale about a woman (Garner) dealing with the death of her fiancee and trying to rebuild her life amidst the discovery of secrets he kept from her. Garner is being showcased front and center in this film, which could serve as a breakthrough for her, having kept a low profile since TV show “Alias” wrapped up its five-year run earlier this year. (Jan. 26)
Official Web site

“Epic Movie”
Starring Kal Penn, Adam Campbell, Faune Chambers, Jayma Mays, Fred Willard
Directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer

If you’ve seen any of the “Scary Movie” franchise, you’ll get the kind of spoofing humor on display here, with films such as “X-Men,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” getting skewered. (Jan. 26)
Official Web site

“Smokin’ Aces”
Starring Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Common, Andy Garcia, Alicia Keys, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds
Directed by Joe Carnahan

Carnahan, who previously helmed the gritty crime drama “Narc,” also featuring Liotta, throws in some comedy with his action this time around. Piven plays a magician about to turn state’s evidence against the mob, leading to a large assortment of assassins looking to collect a huge bounty that’s been placed on his head. Carnahan’s a talent, but can he put a fresh spin on the action genre? (Jan. 26)
Official Web site

“Because I Said So”

Starring Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore, Gabriel Macht, Tom Everett Scott, Lauren Graham, Piper Perabo and Stephen Colllins
Directed by Michael Lehmann

Keaton is very much in her element in this comedy as a bit of an overbearing mother, looking to find love for her youngest daughter (Moore), who has definite dating issues. Graham and Perabo are Keaton’s other daughters in the movie, which certainly makes up an attractive gene pool for this family. With its pre-Valentine’s Day release, this should do good box office business. (Feb. 2)
Official Web site

“Hannibal Rising”
Starring Gaspard Ulliel, Gong Li, Helena Lia Tachovska
Directed by Peter Webber

Coming on the heels of the new Hannibal Lecter novel by Thomas Harris (who also wrote the film’s screenplay), this movie’s prospects would seem dim on first glance. This focuses on the younger years of Lecter, before all the cannibalism and imprisonment. But can audiences really accept Ulliel as Hannibal “The Cannibal,” with the very large shadow of Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins looming? (Feb. 9)
Official Web site

Starring Eddie Murphy, Thandie Newton, Eddie Griffin, Terry Crews and Cuba Gooding Jr.
Directed by Brian Robbins

When he’s on, there are few actors funnier than Eddie Murphy. Problem is, it’s been a while since Murphy has had good comedic material to really match his talents. But perhaps “Norbit” could change that unfortunate trend, as his brother Charlie conceived the story of a mild mannered nerd (Murphy) who becomes smitten with a new woman in his life. Problem is, he’s already married to a gigantic bully of a woman (Murphy). Expect lots of makeup work such as in Murphy’s “The Nutty Professor” movies and “Coming to America.” (Feb. 9)
Official Web site

“Music and Lyrics”
Starring Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, Brad Garrett, Kristen Johnson and Campbell Scott
Directed by Marc Lawrence

When it comes to romantic comedies, it doesn’t seem to come any more automatic than Grant and Barrymore, who have made approximately 100 of them between each other. Still, having Grant playing a washed up singer from a one-hit wonder ‘80s British music group is an inspired bit of casting. Aiming at at Valentine’s Day release, its no secret what kind of market this movie is seeking. (Feb. 14)
Official Web site

“Ghost Rider”
Starring Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Wes Bentley, Sam Elliott, Donal Logue and Peter Fonda
Directed by Mark Steven Johnson

Another Marvel Comics character comes to the big screen, as stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze (Cage), better known as Ghost Rider, gets a big budget movie. Cage’s box office track record lately has been quite inconsistent, and Johnson has swung and missed at a comic book character before (“Daredevil”). But the trailer sure has some cool looking special effects, if that counts for anything. (Feb. 16)
Official Web site

“The Astronaut Farmer”
Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Virginia Madsen, Bruce Dern, Tim Blake Nelson
Directed by Michael Polish

Thornton is frequently drawn to characters who are maybe a bit off of center, and may have another here with Charles Farmer, a man who is forced to leave NASA for a family crisis, effectively ending his career. But his dreams to head into space remain alive, through his work at constructing a rocket in a barn on his Texas ranch. However, unwanted attention is eventually raised, endangering his lifelong dream. (Feb. 23)
Official Web site

“The Number 23”
Starring Jim Carrey, Virginia Madsen, Logan Lerman, Danny Huston
Directed by Joel Schumacher

Taking another trip away from the comedy genre that made him a star, Carrey stars as Walter Sparrow, a family man who comes across a book that he believes may be based on his life. He becomes obsessed with discovering the book’s secrets, which seem connected to the number 23, seemingly pushing him closer to madness. Certainly not your typical Jim Carrey movie, but he would seem effective at portraying borderline crazy. (Feb. 23)
Official Web site

“Reno 911!: Miami”
Starring Thomas Lennon, Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney, Cedric Yarbrough, Carlos Alazraqui, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Niecy Nash, Mary Birdsong and Paul Rudd
Directed by Ben Garant

Fans of Comedy Central’s “Reno: 911!” have reason to rejoice, as the hopelessly inept members of the Reno (Nev.) Sheriff’s Department come to movie theaters. The main question that frequently dogs adaptation of TV shows to movies is the matter of sufficient material to sustain a feature-length production. “Reno: 911!” has mined laughs for several seasons on TV, so it would seem the movie could do the same. (Feb. 23)
Official Web site

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

DVD Releases - Jan. 2

“The Covenant” (PG-13) - While he has had some successes (“Die Hard 2,” “Deep Blue Sea”), it seems director Renny Harlin is content to squander his talents making critically lambasted pictures such as “Cutthroat Island,” “Driven” and this silly piece of cinema. It tells the story about young members of a covenant coming across a power hungry descendant looking for revenge against the families that banished his centuries ago. It would stand to reason that bad things start to happen from there.
Extras: Commentary by Harlin and a featurette.
Official Web site

“Snakes on a Plane” (R) - Few films, if any, have ever gotten as much free hype on the Internet as this Samuel L. Jackson vehicle about an FBI agent transporting a witness on a plane that, unbeknownst to them, is filled with hundreds of poisonous snakes. That would be a tough PR fiasco for that airline to overcome. Despite its heavy promotion over the summer, the film quickly slithered out of theaters.
Extras: Audio commentary with Jackson and director David Ellis, several featurettes and deleted scenes.
Official Web site

Box Office Report: Dec. 29-Jan. 1

Another holiday weekend, another box office win for “Night at the Museum.” The F/X laden family film, starring Ben Stiller as a dorky security guard who discovers the museum’s exhibits come to life after hours, racked up another $48.2 million for the four-day weekend, taking in well over $100 million since its release.

The only real mover on the charts was, as expected, “Dreamgirls.” Bolstered by its wide release and critical acclaim, the musical moved up to the third slot and should do well as awards season moves on through the next couple of months.

The worldwide box office chart will be absent for the next couple of weeks, as the 2007 films will have to accumulate some grosses before it starts taking shape.

1. “Night at the Museum”
(Weekend domestic gross - $48.2 million)
(Worldwide gross - $127.3 million)
(Budget - N/A)
2. “The Pursuit of Happyness”
(Weekend domestic gross - $25.5 million)
(Worldwide gross - $104.5 million)
(Budget - $55 million)
3. “Dreamgirls”
(Weekend domestic gross - $18.4 million)
(Worldwide gross - $41.3 million)
(Budget - N/A)
4. “Charlotte’s Web”
(Weekend domestic gross - $14.9 million)
(Worldwide gross - $64.2 million)
(Budget - $85 million)
5. “The Good Shepherd”
(Weekend domestic gross - $14.2 million)
(Worldwide gross - $38.3 million)
(Budget - N/A)
6. “Rocky Balboa”
(Weekend domestic gross - $13.8 million)
(Worldwide gross - $51.1 million)
(Budget - $24 million)
7. “Eragon”
(Weekend domestic gross - $10.8 million)
(Worldwide gross - $91.6 million)
(Budget - $100 million)
8. “We Are Marshall”
(Weekend domestic gross - $10.4 million)
(Worldwide gross - $27.5 million)
(Budget - N/A)
9. “Happy Feet”
(Weekend domestic gross - $10.0 million)
(Worldwide gross - $292.5 million)
(Budget - $100 million)
10. “The Holiday”
(Weekend domestic gross - $8.8 million)
(Worldwide gross - $120.2 million)
(Budget - $85 million)