Based on H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger's bestselling book of the same name Friday Night Lights tells the true story of the dusty West Texas town of Odessa where nothing much happens until September rolls around. That's when the town's 20 000 or so denizens pour into Ratliff Stadium the country's biggest high school football field every Friday night to watch the Permian Panthers Odessa's "boys in black " take to the field. All the town's hope and dreams are pinned on the padded shoulders of these young gridiron heroes--including insecure quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black); cocky self-assured running back Boobie Miles (Derek Luke); headstrong self-destructive tailback Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund) who must contend with an overbearing abusive dad (Tim McGraw--yes that Tim McGraw the country singer); and the team's spiritual leader middle linebacker Ivory Christian (newcomer Lee Jackson). The Panthers begin their season with one thing on their minds--winning their fifth straight championship for the first time in the team's 30-year history--but for their coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) it also means instilling a love and joy of the game in the boys' hearts amidst tremendous pressures and expectations. Easier said than done.
There isn't a false note in any of the performances and no one falls back on clichéd versions of their characters as is so easy to do in rah-rah sports movies. Thornton does a particularly good job as Gaines keeping you guessing whether he's going to be a hardass insensitive to his players' emotional needs (like so many movie football coaches before him) or if he truly means to coach his boys in a fair and decent way. Gaines too has to deal with his own pressures especially from the townsfolk who are likely to string him up if the team loses the championship. As for Gaines' players Black (the oh-so-serious kid from Thornton's Sling Blade) is all grown up and buffed out and still very serious. It works for the young actor though as the beleaguered Winchell struggles with the love-hate relationship he has with his chosen sport. Other standouts include Luke (Antwone Fisher) as the star player Boobie whose cocksureness leads him to an injury; Hedlund as the volatile Billingsley trying desperately to please his father; and McGraw making his film debut as the father a former Permian Panther champion who sure hasn't given up his competitive spirit basically beating it into his son. First Faith Hill (McGraw's real-life wife) in The Stepford Wives and now McGraw--who knew country singers could act?
From All the Right Moves to Varsity Blues to Remember the Titans Friday Night Lights unfortunately doesn't completely distinguish itself from the pack of football movies before it--like those this is all about how the young players--be they underdogs second-string nobodies or stars--rising above the mounting pressure and playing the best they can bless their hearts. Still there's no question the sports genre--particularly football--always gets the juices pumping with FNL being no exception. It might have something to do with our sick fascination with watching bone-crunching hits and body-punishing tackles. It's dangerous out there for these guys; no other sport (besides maybe hockey) can elicit such wince-inducing emotion and actor/director Peter Berg (The Rundown) exploits that. Obviously influenced by Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday Berg effectively paints his own gritty documentary-style picture of the competitive sport without relying on too many trite gushy over-the-top moments. And to give it credit the film does not necessarily have a feel-good "let's win one for the Gipper" ending; it is based on a true story after all and as we know real life isn't all sunshine and roses especially in the bloodthirsty world of Texas high school football.
The spy games continue as yet more CIA operatives attempt to keep a nuclear bomb out of the hands of Uncle Sam-hating international terrorists.
Whereas last week's The Sum of All Fears depicted the threat of nuclear annihilation with grave solemnity, producer Jerry Bruckheimer's Bad Company plays it for laughs. Sort of.
Ticket scalper Chris Rock finds himself dodging bullets when his twin brother, a CIA agent, is killed in the line of duty. With Anthony Hopkins by his side, Rock assumes his twin brother's cover in order to retrieve a stolen nuclear bomb.
As with the satirical but equally unsatisfying Big Trouble, Bad Company was delayed last year in the wake of the tragic events of Sept. 11. Unlike Big Trouble, which bombed in April with a total $7.1 million, Bad Company should enjoy a strong debut on the strength of its unusual casting. Bruckheimer loves to launch his big, loud and vacuous action yarns in early June, with 1996's The Rock ($25.1 million opening, $134 million total), 1997's Con Air ($24.1 million opening; $101.1 million total) and 2000's Gone In 60 Seconds ($25.3 million opening, $101.6 million total) all becoming major summer draws.
Bad Company might open with $25 million, but it's unlikely reach the heights of The Rock, Con Air and Gone In 60 Seconds. Under Joel Schumacher's labored direction, Bad Company is neither exciting nor particularly witty. It's also a rather drab affair, which comes as a surprise considering Schumacher put the camp back into Batman. Hopkins looks bored and unenthusiastic about working with Rock. The comic throws out the occasional humorous remark, but he looks as uncomfortable holding a gun in Bad Company as he did in Lethal Weapon 4. Expect Bad Company to hit $60 million.
Accordingly, if bad word of mouth starts to spread, audiences might forsake Bad Company for the adrenaline rush of The Sum of All Fears or the out-and-out farce of Undercover Brother. It also doesn't help that next week sees the release of another spy-themed thriller, The Bourne Identity.
The Sum of All Fears should withstand Bad Company's arrival admirably. The Jack Ryan franchise clearly survived Ben Affleck replacing Harrison Ford as Tom Clancy's harried CIA analyst. The fourth Ryan film opened with a series-best $31.1 million. With $40.3 million through Wednesday, The Sum of All Fears will surpass the disappointing Patriot Games ($18.5 opening, $83.2 million total) with ease. It will likely fall short of Clear and Present Danger ($20.3 million opening, $122 million total) or The Hunt for Red October ($17.1 million opening, $120.7 million total) because of rivals Bad Company and The Bourne Identity.
Undercover Brother should continue to palate audiences eagerly awaiting Austin Powers in Goldmember. Eddie Griffin's spy spoof opened with a cool $12 million--better than Double Take ($11.7 million) and The New Guy ($9 million)--and has $15.2 million through Wednesday. Not even The Man can stop Undercover Brother from exceeding Double Take's $29.8 million total by at least $10 million.
To counterbalance the testosterone now overrunning movie theaters, Thelma & Louise screenwriter Callie Khouri unveils her directorial debut, the decidedly feminine Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
Based on the 1996 novel by Rebecca Wells, this tale of Southern belles stars Sandra Bullock as a playwright trying to cope with her eccentric mother (Ellen Burstyn), who is a key member of a circle of friends know as the Ya-Yas. Bullock's A Time to Kill co-star Ashley Judd plays the mother during flashbacks to the 1930s and 1940s.
Women apathetic to international espionage, superheroes and Jedi Knights should flock en masse to Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. So-called "chick flicks" tend to do well in the summer as an alternative to blockbusters bursting with shootouts, car chases and earthshaking explosions. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood should easily fall somewhere between the grosses of such similar summer offerings as Bullock's Hope Floats ($14.2 opening, $60.1 million total) and the Khouri-scripted Something to Talk About ($11.1 million opening, $50.8 million total).
Without the presence of a strong leading man to lure even so much as a marginal male audience, though, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood won't duplicate the success of other summer romances as Robert Redford's The Horse Whisperer ($75.3 million) or Clint Eastwood's The Bridges of Madison County ($71.5 million).
Still, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood should see Judd and Bullock regain their box office luster following the recent disappointing performances of their respective thrillers, High Crimes ($40.9 million through Sunday) and Murder by Numbers ($31.2 million through Sunday).
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood also hits theaters at a time when Diane Lane's Unfaithful, Hugh Grant's About a Boy and Jennifer Lopez's Enough are falling out of favor.
Unfaithful was always destined to lose steam once it faced the likes of Insomnia and Enough. With $46.7 million through Wednesday, the sexually charged thriller does represent Richard Gere's biggest hit--minus his Runaway Bride reunion with Pretty Woman co-star Julia Roberts--since 1997's The Jackal ($54.9 million). Unfaithful also may finally establish Lane as a viable box office prospect after such howlers as Hardball and The Glass House.
With $29.3 million through Wednesday, About a Boy looks set to become the least seen of such Grant-headlined, British-set comedies as Notting Hill ($116 million), Bridget Jones's Diary ($71.5 million) and Four Weddings and a Funeral ($52.7 million). Perhaps it has something to with the lack of an American female co-star?
Enough's quick fade--$29.3 million through Wednesday--suggests that the novelty of watching women kick butt in the movies, especially ones that rip off Julia Roberts' Sleeping with the Enemy, is wearing off fast. Lopez should have better luck when she returns at Christmas with the romantic comedy The Chambermaid.
The Force isn't quite with Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.
The fifth in George Lucas' space epic earned slightly better reviews than the maligned The Phantom Menace, but it's lagging behind its predecessor at the box office. Attack of the Clones dropped a worrying 56 percent in its third weekend, from $47.8 million to $21 million, vs. The Phantom Menace 36 percent drop, from $51.3 million to $32.8 million. Indeed, The Phantom Menace made $25.6 million in its fourth weekend.
Through Wednesday, its 21st day in release, Attack of the Clones has $238.9 million. The Phantom Menace amassed $263.6 million during the same period.
Attack of the Clones' troubling descent can be contributed to, among other factors, Spider-Man. The superhero supplanted Jurassic Park ($357 million) on Wednesday as the fifth highest-grossing film domestically by grossing a total $358.5 million. No film has made more money since, ironically, The Phantom Menace earned $431 million in 1999.
The Phantom Menace did not face similar competition early into its run. The anticipation surrounding the first Star Wars film in 16 years also enabled The Phantom Menace to overcome its overwhelmingly negative reviews.
At this rate, Attack of the Clones should wind up with a total somewhere between Return of the Jedi's $309.2 million and The Empire Strikes Back's $290.2 million. But barely breaking $300 million--and not earning more than the first installments in the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings sagas--must come as a disappointment for Lucas after The Phantom Menace's stellar showing.
Americanizing European thrillers rarely works. Something obviously got lost in the translation when it came to Point of No Return ($30 million), The Vanishing ($14.5 million) and Nightwatch ($1.1 million).
Not so with Insomnia, Memento director Christopher Nolan's chilling version of the clever Norwegian thriller of the same name. With $44.8 million through Wednesday, the Alaskan-set thriller is obviously benefiting from its intriguing cat-and-mouse game between fatigued cop Al Pacino and scheming killer Robin Williams. Pacino looks set to enjoy another moderate success on the scale of Devil's Advocate ($61 million). Williams could revive his flagging fortunes following such disappointments as Bicentennial Man ($58.2 million), Death to Smoochy ($8.3 million) and Jakob the Liar ($4.9 million).
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, which opened during the Memorial Day holiday, is further evidence that the days when traditional animation offerings ruled the box office are long gone. Spirit's $42.7 million total through Wednesday barely matches the opening weekend hauls of such CGI sensations as Ice Age ($46.3 million) and Shrek ($42.3 million). Spirit should gallop to about $60 million.
Indifferent reviews did not harm The Importance of Being Earnest. This star-studded adaptation of the Oscar Wilde play has made $1.4 million through Sunday at a maximum 147 theaters.
Also in limited release, My Big Fat Greek Wedding remains a well-attended affair. Now in its seventh week, the romantic comedy has $8.8 million. Y Tu Mama Tambien and Monsoon Wedding continue their extraordinary runs with, respectively, $11.5 million and $11.4 million through Sunday.
The code-breaking machinations of Enigma, though, isn't proving to be much of a thrill. The World War II drama starring Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet has a paltry $2 million after seven weeks. Coupled with the recent dismissal of Charlotte Gray, Enigma demonstrates that American audiences currently have little interest in World War II as seen through the eyes of the British.
A promising young playwright Sidda Lee Walker (Sandra Bullock) lives in New York far enough away from her Louisiana hometown. After she gives a damaging interview to Time magazine--damaging mainly to her mother Vivianne Abbott Walker (Ellen Burstyn) who doesn't take lightly to her daughter's intonations that she was not a good mother--the two women begin a feud. It threatens to destroy not only their relationship but Sidda's own plans to marry her longtime boyfriend Connor (Angus MacFadyen). Enter the Ya-Ya Sisterhood--Caro (Maggie Smith) Teensy (Fionnula Flanagan) and Necie (Shirley Knight) Vivi's lifelong best friends. To bring mother and daughter back together the women decide it's time for Sidda to learn about the Divine Secrets of their little clique--and about her mother's painful past. They tell Sidda stories about the young Vivi (Ashley Judd) who was full of promise and hope but how certain tragic events damaged her. The bond between these four older women is unshakable and the most honest element to the film. The sad news for the novel's fans however is that while the script manages to convey the true spirit of friendship it can't quite capture the magic of the book.
In a cast of many the film is chock-full of wonderful performances but it's the matured Ya-Yas who steal the show. Smith plays the tough Caro a lifelong smoker now saddled with emphysema with all the biting wit the actress is best known for while Knight plays the sweet no-nonsense Necie with just a hint of sarcasm. Flanagan the best of the three shines as the wealthy Teensy a recovering alcoholic who has faced demons herself. Her exchanges are some of the more memorable especially when after being told by an angry Vivi that she could knock Teensy into next week Teensy tells her friend "And I'll kick your ass on Thursday." Yet the film truly belongs to Burstyn and Judd as the different faces of Vivi. Burstyn is all at once the highly dramatic Southern beauty who has come to terms with (or remained steeped in denial about however you look at it) her painful past while Judd gets to show us the nitty-gritty of what actually happened to Vivi to harden her. Unfortunately the weakest member of this ensemble cast is Bullock as Sidda. She never quite convinces us she grew up in such an eccentric and terribly Southern environment. And not to leave out the men completely--James Garner plays Sidda's father Shep with quiet patience having survived life with his lady love who never loved him quite the same in return. The devoted Connor mirrors Shep but MacFadyen plays him with a lot more backbone.
Oscar-winning screenwriter Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise) couldn't have chosen a better film to make as her directorial debut. Sure she might be pigeonholed forever as the "chick flick" girl but she probably doesn't care much. Khouri had been approached to adapt Wells' novel a few times over the last couple of years but never had the time to do it. When the right time came along Khouri wisely decided it was also time to take on the directing chores. Even as a novice the writer/director shows us she knows her way around a camera. The film captures that Southern feel lush and languid as the moss drips down from the trees. She also knows how to handle her actors too and is able to elicit great performances (although with the likes of Burstyn and Smith this isn't hard to do). The soundtrack also is an added bonus with a variation of music from jazz to Louisiana Cajun. Yet even with all this going for it Divine Secrets misses a beat. In a novel it's great to read stories about an eccentric Southern family but to have vignettes told to you as a framework for a movie it can slow a film down. You probably won't be able to drag your husband to go see this one.
After four hours of labor, the Dixie Chicks' lead singer, Natalie Maines, has become a Dixie mom.
Maines, 26, gave birth in an Austin, TX, hospital on Friday to a son - Jackson Slade. According to the Associated Press, the newborn weighed six pounds.
"He has sandy blond hair and Natalie's nose,'' Dixie Chick Emily Robison told the press. ``She made us very jealous. It was a very easy and fast delivery.''
Maines is married to actor Adrian Pasdar, 35, who stars on PAX TV's Mysterious Ways, a supernatural drama. The couple married last June in Las Vegas.
According to the AP, both Maines and Pasdar anxiously await the birth of nine more children in the next few years.
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HOLLYWOOD, June 8, 2000 – Forget "Gladiator." This weekend it's the Clash of the Titans, as Nic Cage jumps into the ring and tests Tom Cruise's box-office legs.
Cage and Oscar winner Angelina Jolie topline "Gone In 60 Seconds," a very big-budget remake of a very low-budget 1970s drive-in flick about a ring of daredevil auto thieves. After two weeks at No. 1, it looks like Cruise and his "M:I-2" are headed for a supporting role.
"It's going to be a pretty big weekend," says Paul Dergarabedian of the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. "'Gone In 60 Seconds' is just going to be tremendous. It's got a terrific trailer, a great marketing campaign, and any guy between the age of 12 and 60 will want to see this thing."
Lest you think a non-holiday weekend in early June isn't the best time to put out a big new flick, take note that exactly one year ago, "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" opened and made a whopping $54 million. In other words, unless something goes dreadfully wrong, "Gone In 60 Seconds" will rake it in likewise.
Here's a brief overview of this weekend's main event:
GONE IN 60 SECONDS (See the trailer) The skinny: A cool dude (Cage) and a cool chick (Jolie) steal cars and lead the cops on interminable, but equally cool, car chases. The upside: Vroom, vroom, crash, boom! If you don't love a great car chase, you're probably a Communist. Either that, or you're a girl. The downside: With gas prices at all-time highs, how dare Hollywood put such shameless fuel-wasting gluttony on display?
Elsewhere, "M:I-2" and "Dinosaur" will continue to make lots and lots of money, while other recent contenders like "Shanghai Noon," "Frequency," and "Gladiator" will vie to remain in Top 10 contention.