Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Box Office Report: July 27-29

With 18 years on the TV screen under its belt, “The Simpsons” made a smashing debut on the big screen, taking in $74 million over the weekend, destroying its competition in the process. Its studio, 20th Century Fox, has been aggressively marketing the film for months and is raking in the dough as “Simpsons” fans, both die-hard and casual, made their way to theaters.

The other major debuts, “No Reservations” and “I Know Who Killed Me” debuted in 5th and 9th place, respectively. The pathetic finish of the latter, starring Lindsey Lohan, had to be a real thorn in the side for Sony Pictures, which had the misfortune of having its star getting booked into jail and then taking another trip to rehab a mere week or so before the film’s debut in theaters. That’s probably not quite the PR campaign the studio was hoping for.

1. “The Simpsons Movie”
(Weekend domestic gross - $74.0 million)
(Worldwide gross - $74.0 million)
(Budget - $75 million)
2. “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry”
(Weekend domestic gross - $19.1 million)
(Worldwide gross - $72.5 million)
(Budget - $85 million)
3. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”
(Weekend domestic gross - $17.7 million)
(Worldwide gross - $698.9 million)
(Budget - $150 million)
4. “Hairspray”
(Weekend domestic gross - $15.9 million)
(Worldwide gross - $63.9 million)
(Budget - N/A)
5. “No Reservations”
(Weekend domestic gross - $11.7 million)
(Worldwide gross - $63.9 million)
(Budget - N/A)
6. “Transformers”
(Weekend domestic gross - $11.6 million)
(Worldwide gross - $535.7 million)
(Budget - $150 million)
7. “Ratatouille”
(Weekend domestic gross - $7.5 million)
(Worldwide gross - $217.4 million)
(Budget - N/A)
8. “Live Free or Die Hard”
(Weekend domestic gross - $5.6 million)
(Worldwide gross - $285.1 million)
(Budget - $110 million)
9. “I Know Who Killed Me”
(Weekend domestic gross - $3.5 million)
(Worldwide gross - $3.5 million)
(Budget - N/A)
10. “Who’s Your Caddy?”
(Weekend domestic gross - $2.8 million)
(Worldwide gross - $2.8 million)
(Budget - N/A)

2007 Year-To-Date
1. “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”

(Worldwide gross - $947.5 million)
(Budget - $300 million)
2. “Spider-Man 3”
(Worldwide gross - $889.0 million)
(Budget - $258 million)
3. “Shrek the Third”
(Worldwide gross - $718.6 million)
(Budget - $160 million)
4. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”
(Worldwide gross - $698.9 million)
(Budget - $150 million)
5. “Transformers”
(Worldwide gross - $535.7 million)
(Budget - $150 million)
6. “300”
(Worldwide gross - $456.0 million)
(Budget - $65 million)
7. “Live Free or Die Hard”
(Worldwide gross - $285.1 million)
(Budget - $110 million)
8. “Ocean’s Thirteen”
(Worldwide gross - $275.2 million)
(Budget - N/A)
9. “Wild Hogs”
(Worldwide gross - $252.5 million)
(Budget - N/A)
10. “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”
(Worldwide gross - $238.0 million)
(Budget - $130 million)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Movie Review: "Hot Fuzz"


Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Edward Woodward, Timothy Dalton
Directed by Edgar Wright

Official Web site

Having built up a healthy-sized cult following with the success of “Shaun of the Dead,” a send-up and homage to zombie movies popularized by George Romero, among others, actor Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright have teamed up again to even greater results with “Hot Fuzz.” Skewering any number of American action movies, including “Bad Boys II” and “Point Break,” the film generates plenty of laughs while delivering a fair amount of bang for the buck. It’s a movie that works equally well in the comedy and action departments.

Pegg and Wright collaborated on the script that brings a standout London cop to a sleepy, tiny town of Sandford, where the police department actually responds to calls involving an escaped goose. Nicholas Angel (Pegg in a winning performance) is transferred to Sandford by his superiors simply because he’s too good at his job. His arrest rate is so high, it’s making the rest of the department look bad by comparison.

Predictably, Angel isn’t an ideal fit for Sandford, where crime seems to be nonexistent and the local police department seems overly complacent. Teamed up with Danny (Nick Frost, another “Shaun of the Dead” alumnus), the son of police Inspector Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent), Angel quickly becomes bored and frustrated by the lack of activity. He also seems a bit hesitant at what to make of the seemingly odd behavior of some of the townspeople, including Tom Weaver (Edward Woodward), the head of a neighborhood watch group and the former James Bond himself, Timothy Dalton, playing an egotistical grocery store owner.

However, things don’t stay quiet for long, as some of the townspeople start dying off, in what at the least could be described as some very coincidental “accidents.” But through the work of Angel and the action movie-obsessed Danny, the pieces of a more sinister plot that connects the deaths together begins to form.

While the laughs come at the viewer pretty consistently throughout the first two-thirds of the picture, it’s in the film’s last act that the movie really cranks up the action. At that point, it makes fun of and accurately becomes a high-octane action movie, complete with endless supplies of bullets blazing out of guns, where seemingly everybody is a threat, including a shotgun-toting grandma.

The primary reason that “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead” work is because Pegg and Wright both obviously have a passion and love for the very movies at which they are poking fun. They know the landscape on which they’re walking very well, thus giving them confidence at having some good-natured ribbing at the genre’s expense. The audience becomes the beneficiary of the fun, as anyone who has ever seen an action movie will instantly recognize some of the clich├ęs being rolled out. The movie does probably go on a bit longer than necessary and the violence quotient is definitely intensified in the last half hour or so. Then again, by that point, you might be too busy laughing to notice or care.

Grade: A-
(Rated R for violent content including some graphic images, and language.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Box Office Report: July 20-22

In what became one of the truly competitive weekends of the summer, the top three films of the weekend box office finished within less than $7 million from each other, with “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” climbing on top with $34.2 million. Close behind was “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” getting $32.5 in its second weekend, while the musical “Hairspray” finished strong as well, with $27.5 million.

The worldwide chart saw a little shuffling on the list, as more of the summer movies are supplanting the spring standouts.

1. “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry”
(Weekend domestic gross - $34.2 million)
(Worldwide gross - $34.2 million)
(Budget - $85 million)
2. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”
(Weekend domestic gross - $32.5 million)
(Worldwide gross - $559.2 million)
(Budget - $150 million)
3. “Hairspray”
(Weekend domestic gross - $27.5 million)
(Worldwide gross - $27.5 million)
(Budget - N/A)
4. “Transformers”
(Weekend domestic gross - $20.5 million)
(Worldwide gross - $453.6 million)
(Budget - $150 million)
5. “Ratatouille”
(Weekend domestic gross - $10.9 million)
(Worldwide gross - $195.1 million)
(Budget - N/A)
6. “Live Free or Die Hard”
(Weekend domestic gross - $7.1 million)
(Worldwide gross - $241.4 million)
(Budget - $110 million)
7. “License to Wed”
(Weekend domestic gross - $3.6 million)
(Worldwide gross - $38.5 million)
(Budget - N/A)
8. “1408”
(Weekend domestic gross - $2.6 million)
(Worldwide gross - $68.9 million)
(Budget - $25 million)
9. “Evan Almighty”
(Weekend domestic gross - $2.56 million)
(Worldwide gross - $98.2 million)
(Budget - $175 million)
10. “Knocked Up”
(Weekend domestic gross - $2.3 million)
(Worldwide gross - $152.1 million)
(Budget - $30 million)

2007 Year-To-Date
1. “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”

(Worldwide gross - $940.1 million)
(Budget - $300 million)
2. “Spider-Man 3”
(Worldwide gross - $888.4 million)
(Budget - $258 million)
3. “Shrek the Third”
(Worldwide gross - $701.6 million)
(Budget - $160 million)
4. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”
(Worldwide gross - $559.2 million)
(Budget - $150 million)
5. “300”
(Worldwide gross - $456.0 million)
(Budget - $65 million)
6. “Transformers”
(Worldwide gross - $453.6 million)
(Budget - $150 million)
7. “Ocean’s Thirteen”
(Worldwide gross - $269.4 million)
(Budget - N/A)
8. “Wild Hogs”
(Worldwide gross - $252.2 million)
(Budget - N/A)
9. “Live Free or Die Hard”
(Worldwide gross - $241.4 million)
(Budget - $110 million)
10. “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”
(Worldwide gross - $233.6 million)
(Budget - $130 million)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Box Office Report: July 13-15

As the final book in the franchise is looming, Harry Potter showed he’s still magical at the box office, as “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” got off to a very strong start, taking in $77.1 million in its opening weekend. It also has already surpassed the $300 million mark in worldwide grosses.

Last week’s number one, “Transformers” easily snagged second place, with $37 million and is approaching $400 million in worldwide receipts. Most of the remaining top 10 simply slipped down a spot, with several solid hits emerging among them.

1. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”
(Weekend domestic gross - $77.1 million)
(Worldwide gross - $332.7 million)
(Budget - $150 million)
2. “Transformers”
(Weekend domestic gross - $37.0 million)
(Worldwide gross - $370.7 million)
(Budget - $150 million)
3. “Ratatouille”
(Weekend domestic gross - $18.0 million)
(Worldwide gross - $160.8 million)
(Budget - N/A)
4. “Live Free or Die Hard”
(Weekend domestic gross - $11.3 million)
(Worldwide gross - $194.4 million)
(Budget - $110 million)
5. “License to Wed”
(Weekend domestic gross - $7.3 million)
(Worldwide gross - $30.4 million)
(Budget - N/A)
6. “1408”
(Weekend domestic gross - $4.93 million)
(Worldwide gross - $62.1 million)
(Budget - $25 million)
7. “Evan Almighty”
(Weekend domestic gross - $4.9 million)
(Worldwide gross - $92.2 million)
(Budget - $175 million)
8. “Knocked Up”
(Weekend domestic gross - $3.7 million)
(Worldwide gross - $145.0 million)
(Budget - $30 million)
9. “Sicko”
(Weekend domestic gross - $2.6 million)
(Worldwide gross - $15.8 million)
(Budget - $9 million)
10. “Ocean’s Thirteen”
(Weekend domestic gross - $2.0 million)
(Worldwide gross - $262.0 million)
(Budget - N/A)

2007 Year-To-Date
1. “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”

(Worldwide gross - $929.4 million)
(Budget - $300 million)
2. “Spider-Man 3”
(Worldwide gross - $885.8 million)
(Budget - $258 million)
3. “Shrek the Third”
(Worldwide gross - $679.3 million)
(Budget - $160 million)
4. “300”
(Worldwide gross - $455.6 million)
(Budget - $65 million)
5. “Transformers”
(Worldwide gross - $370.7 million)
(Budget - $150 million)
6. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”
(Worldwide gross - $332.7 million)
(Budget - $150 million)
7. “Ocean’s Thirteen”
(Worldwide gross - $262.0 million)
(Budget - N/A)
8. “Wild Hogs”
(Worldwide gross - $251.5 million)
(Budget - N/A)
9. “Ghost Rider”
(Worldwide gross - $228.7 million)
(Budget - $110 million)
10. “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”
(Worldwide gross - $225.2 million)
(Budget - $130 million)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Movie Review: "Curse of the Golden Flower"


Starring Chow Yun Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou, Lie Ye, Chen Jin, Ni Dahong, Li Man, Qin Junjie
Directed by Zhang Yimou

Official Web site

Having created impressive historical epics such as “House of Flying Daggers” and “Hero,” director Zhang Yimou certainly knows how to craft tales with incredible visual flair. But unlike those previous two films, “Curse of the Golden Flower” is much more style over substance. Ultimately, the story, nor the characters that inhabit it, are worth getting worked up about.

Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li star as the emperor and empress of a seriously dysfunctional family in 928 A.D. China. By the time the story begins, the royal couple’s marriage is already a fairly lifeless entity. Both are in the midst of betrayals – she’s cheating on him, while he’s trying to slowly poison her to death. Meanwhile, the family’s three sons are caught up in their parents’ power struggle, with at least two of them eyeing a chance at the throne. Never mind the fact that one of them is the very person with whom the empress is having her affair (I told you the family’s dysfunctional).

Throw in an attempted military coup within the palace walls, and you’ve got the ingredients to a compelling story. Unfortunately, the individual parts simply don’t add up to a satisfying whole. Part of the problem is that with such a troubled family at its core, there needs to be somebody worth rooting for amidst all the soap opera-ish developments. But alas, this is not the case, as every family member is either underdeveloped or simply despicable (in some cases, both).

The normally charismatic Chow Yun Fat seems too reigned in here, portraying an emperor who has seemingly long since given up hope in his family’s redemption. With the exception of a swordfight with one of his sons in the early portions of the film, he’s given little to do. While Chow Yun Fat seems to underplay his role, Gong Li tends to go the other direction here, playing up the melodramatic aspects of a woman descending into madness. Still, she looks pretty great doing so.

In fact, all of the sets and costume design are sensational, as colors practically leap off the screen. Likewise, some of the action sequences, most of which are filled in the film’s busy third act, are very eye-catching, complete with excellent cinematography. However, there is an overreliance on CGI during the climactic battle scenes that tends to distract and reduce the human drama taking place. Of course, with such an unlikeable clan at its core, the eventual outcome of the family’s infighting seems irrelevant. As there’s really no one to root for, there’s little reason to care who survives. In the end, you’ll probably just be glad to not have to spend the holidays with this family.

Grade: C-
(Rated R for violence.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Box Office Report: July 6-8

A movie that was released, appropriately enough, right in time for the Fourth of July fireworks, caused some of its own at the box office, taking in more than $70 million for its opening weekend. Counting up its worldwide grosses, the movie has already surpassed $260 million, allowing director Michael Bay to more easily forget the box office failure of his last film, “The Island.”

The only other major new release, “License to Wed” managed to snag the fourth place position, but was torn apart by critics and will likely have a short stay on the charts.

1. “Transformers”
(Weekend domestic gross - $70.5 million)
(Worldwide gross - $262.5 million)
(Budget - $150 million)
2. “Ratatouille”
(Weekend domestic gross - $29.0 million)
(Worldwide gross - $119.4 million)
(Budget - N/A)
3. “Live Free or Die Hard”
(Weekend domestic gross - $17.7 million)
(Worldwide gross - $122.1 million)
(Budget - $110 million)
4. “License to Wed”
(Weekend domestic gross - $10.4 million)
(Worldwide gross - $19.3 million)
(Budget - N/A)
5. “Evan Almighty”
(Weekend domestic gross - $8.7 million)
(Worldwide gross - $83.9 million)
(Budget - $175 million)
6. “1408”
(Weekend domestic gross - $7.1 million)
(Worldwide gross - $54.8 million)
(Budget - $25 million)
7. “Knocked Up”
(Weekend domestic gross - $5.2 million)
(Worldwide gross - $136.1 million)
(Budget - $30 million)
8. “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”
(Weekend domestic gross - $4.3 million)
(Worldwide gross - $206.9 million)
(Budget - $130 million)
9. “Sicko”
(Weekend domestic gross - $3.6 million)
(Worldwide gross - $11.9 million)
(Budget - $9 million)
10. “Ocean’s Thirteen”
(Weekend domestic gross - $3.5 million)
(Worldwide gross - $250.3 million)
(Budget - N/A)

2007 Year-To-Date
1. “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”

(Worldwide gross - $911.1 million)
(Budget - $300 million)
2. “Spider-Man 3”
(Worldwide gross - $884.4 million)
(Budget - $258 million)
3. “Shrek the Third”
(Worldwide gross - $642.5 million)
(Budget - $160 million)
4. “300”
(Worldwide gross - $454.2 million)
(Budget - $65 million)
5. “Transformers”
(Worldwide gross - $262.5 million)
(Budget - $150 million)
6. “Wild Hogs”
(Worldwide gross - $250.7 million)
(Budget - N/A)
7. “Ocean’s Thirteen”
(Worldwide gross - $250.3 million)
(Budget - N/A)
8. “Ghost Rider”
(Worldwide gross - $228.5 million)
(Budget - $110 million)
9. “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”
(Worldwide gross - $206.9 million)
(Budget - $130 million)
10. “Mr. Bean’s Holiday”
(Worldwide gross - $184.5 million)
(Budget - N/A)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Movie Review: "Ocean's Thirteen"


Starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Ellen Barkin and Al Pacino
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Official Web site

It’s good to be back in Las Vegas.

At least that’s what the cast and crew (and subsequently, the audience) should be saying about “Ocean’s Thirteen,” the caper film franchise starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and company.

After a very entertaining stint in Vegas in 2001’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” its 2004 sequel turned off some critics and fans with its European sojourn and overly self-pleased tone. But now the gang is back in Sin City with a movie that, while not as fun and fresh as the first film, still steps lively and is quite enjoyable to watch.

The motivation for Danny Ocean (Clooney) and his crew this time around is pure revenge, as compatriot Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) finds himself ruthlessly squeezed out of his co-ownership in a dazzling new hotel/casino on the Vegas Strip. He suffers a heart attack due to the betrayal by partner Willy Bank (Al Pacino, in good villainous form here) and is hospitalized. Ocean sees the move by Bank as an affront to his entire gang, and after getting rebuffed by the businessman in a face-to-face meeting, he sets out to administer some payback.

Of course, Ocean’s crew is much too smart to just get back at someone through violence, so they set in motion a plan to hit Bank where it will really hurt him – in the pocketbook and his reputation. Their primary focus is to take out the state-of-the-art security system installed at The Bank (named after, well, you get it), in an attempt to allow the casino players to have the advantage over the house, for once. This strategy is aided by the fact that the team has found a way to rig a number of the casino games via loaded dice, card shuffling machines and more.

The ingenious, albeit rather farfetched plan, is laid out in fast-talking scenes filled with intricate detail that challenges audiences to keep up. Whether it’s Ocean and his right-hand man, Rusty Ryan (Pitt) discussing the seemingly impregnable security system with an associate (Eddie Izzard) or the plan to destroy Bank’s string of coveted Five Diamond Awards for his hotel, the revenge plot is presented in tightly edited sequences. It certainly helps that the script is crafted by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, a pair certainly familiar with the world of gambling, having written “Rounders,” a 1998 movie also starring Damon.

Much like the first two films, “Ocean’s Thirteen” has style to spare and is beautifully shot and directed by Steven Soderbergh (who also serves here as cinematographer under the name “Peter Andrews”). If anything, the film’s maybe a bit too cool for its own good, as there’s little suspense or sense of danger in the gang’s plan. You won’t necessarily know how they’re going to be able to pull it off every step of the way – you just know that they will.

So while a little edginess to the proceedings might have made it work a bit better, when you’re in the hands of skilled pros like this star-studded cast (which also includes Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia, Bernie Mac and Ellen Barkin), it gets a little hard to complain much. For the pure bang for your entertainment buck, hanging with these guys for a couple of hours hardly seems like a gamble at all.

Grade: B+
(Rated PG-13 for brief sensuality.)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Box Office Report: June 29-July 1

After eight weeks of sequels ruling at the top of the box office heap, “Ratatouille,” the latest offering from the clever minds at Pixar, ended the streak, pulling in $47 million over the weekend. It actually held off another sequel, with the fourth in the “Die Hard” series, “Live Free or Die Hard,” coming in second place, with more than $33 million.

And after a huge head start, “Spider-Man 3” was surpassed over the weekend on the worldwide charts, as “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” surpassed $900 million, and is looking likely to become the overall box office champ for the summer, if not the year. Of course, there’s still the second half of 2007 to come, but $900 million will be a very hard figure to beat.

1. “Ratatouille”
(Weekend domestic gross - $47.0 million)
(Worldwide gross - $47.0 million)
(Budget - N/A)
2. “Live Free or Die Hard”
(Weekend domestic gross - $33.4 million)
(Worldwide gross - $88.2 million)
(Budget - $110 million)
3. “Evan Almighty”
(Weekend domestic gross - $15.1 million)
(Worldwide gross - $66.2 million)
(Budget - $175 million)
4. “1408”
(Weekend domestic gross - $10.7 million)
(Worldwide gross - $42.0 million)
(Budget - $25 million)
5. “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”
(Weekend domestic gross - $9.1 million)
(Worldwide gross - $175.3 million)
(Budget - $130 million)
6. “Knocked Up”
(Weekend domestic gross - $7.3 million)
(Worldwide gross - $123.3 million)
(Budget - $30 million)
7. “Ocean’s Thirteen”
(Weekend domestic gross - $6.1 million)
(Worldwide gross - $227.0 million)
(Budget - N/A)
8. “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”
(Weekend domestic gross - $5.0 million)
(Worldwide gross - $905.4 million)
(Budget - $300 million)
9. “Sicko”
(Weekend domestic gross - $4.5 million)
(Worldwide gross - $4.5 million)
(Budget - $9 million)
10. “Evening”
(Weekend domestic gross - $3.5 million)
(Worldwide gross - $3.5 million)
(Budget - N/A)

2007 Year-To-Date
1. “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”

(Worldwide gross - $905.4 million)
(Budget - $300 million)
2. “Spider-Man 3”
(Worldwide gross - $882.6 million)
(Budget - $258 million)
3. “Shrek the Third”
(Worldwide gross - $576.1 million)
(Budget - $160 million)
4. “300”
(Worldwide gross - $452.6 million)
(Budget - $65 million)
5. “Wild Hogs”
(Worldwide gross - $249.0 million)
(Budget - N/A)
6. “Ghost Rider”
(Worldwide gross - $228.2 million)
(Budget - $110 million)
7. “Ocean’s Thirteen”
(Worldwide gross - $227.0 million)
(Budget - N/A)
8. “Mr. Bean’s Holiday”
(Worldwide gross - $184.3 million)
(Budget - N/A)
9. “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”
(Worldwide gross - $175.3 million)
(Budget - $130 million)
10. “Norbit”
(Worldwide gross - $158.6 million)
(Budget - $60 million)