Director Alexander Payne's (Election Sideways) new film opens over sprawling landscape shots of Hawaii's scenic suburbia accompanied by George Clooney's character Matt King summing up his current predicament: "Paradise can go fuck itself." The reaction unfortunately is reasonable.
We pick up with King an ancestor of Hawaiian royalty in the middle of deliberations over a plot of land handed down through his family over generations. With every uncle aunt and cosign whispering opinions into his ear King is suddenly presented with an even greater problem: taking care of his two daughters. A boating accident leaves his wife in a coma forcing Matt to take a true parenting role with his young socially-troubled daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) and his rebellious teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who was previously shipped off to boarding school. Matt awkwardly hunts for the emotional glue necessary for the mismatched bunch to become "a family " but matters are made even more complicated when Alex reveals that her mother was cheating on him before the accident. Murphy's Law is in full effect.
With The Descendants Payne continues to explore and discover the inherent humor in life's melancholic situations unfolding Matt's quest for understanding like a road movie across Hawaii's many islands. Simultaneously preparing for the end of his wife's death and searching for the identity of her lover Matt crosses paths with a number of perfectly cast side characters who act as mirrors to his best and worst qualities: his father-in-law Scott (Robert Foster) who belittles Matt for never taking care of his daughter; Hugh (Beau Bridges) an opportunistic cousin who pressures Matt to sell the land; Alexandra's dunce of a boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) who always has the wrong thing to say; and Julie (Judy Greer) the wife of the adulterer in question. Colorful yet real Matt experiences a definitive moment with each of them yet the picture never feels sporadic or episodic.
Clooney and Woodley help gel these sequences together as they observe experience and butt heads as equals. Clooney's own magnetism stands in the way of making Matt a fully dimensional character but he shines when playing off his quick-witted daughter. His reactions are heartbreaking—but it's the moments when he has to put himself out there that never quite ring true. But the script by Nat Faxon Jim Rash and Payne gives Clooney plenty of opportunities to work his magic visualizing his struggle as opposed to vomiting it out like so many of today's talky dramas.
The Descendants is a tender cinematic experience an introspective and heartwarming film unafraid to convey its story with pleasing simplicity. Clooney stands out with a solid performance but like many of Payne's films it's the eclectic ensemble and muted backdrop that give the movie its real texture. The paradise of Descendants isn't all its cracked up to be but for movie-goers it's bliss.
After garnering widespread praise (and an Oscar nomination for screenwriting) for his 2000 directorial debut You Can Count on Me Kenneth Lonergan was in-demand. In September 2005 the writer/director began production on a follow-up feature: Margaret which touted Anna Paquin Matt Damon Mark Ruffalo Matthew Broderick Allison Janney as well as legendary filmmakers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) as producers. The movie wrapped production in a few months time. The buzz was already growing.
Now six years later the movie is finally hitting theaters. So…what took so long?
The journey to this point hasn't been an easy one and it shows. If a film's shot footage is a block of granite and the editing process is the careful carving that turns it into a statuesque work of art Margaret feels like it was attacked by a blind man with a jackhammer. The film is a cinematic disaster a mishmash of shallow characters overwrought politics and sporadic tones. The story follows Lisa Coen (Paquin) a New York teenager who finds herself drowning in chaos after distracting a bus driver (Ruffalo) causing him to hit and kill a pedestrian (Janney). Initially Lisa tells the police it was all an accident but as time passes regret takes hold and the girl embarks on a mission to take down the man she now regards as a culprit. That's just the tip of the iceberg–along the way Lisa deals with everyday teen stuff: falling for her geometry teacher (Damon) combating her anxiety-ridden actress mother losing her virginity dabbling in drugs debating 9/11 and the Iraq War cultivating a relationship with her father in LA and more. There are about eight seasons of television stuffed into Margaret but even a two and a half hour run time can't make it all click.
For more on Margaret check out Indie Seen: Margaret the Long Lost Anna Paquin/Matt Damon Movie
They ride together. They die together. They conquer the box office together.
The buddy sequel Bad Boys II proved a formidable opponent for an angst-y teen girl, a ship of cursed pirates and a bumbling secret agent at the box office weekend. The shoot 'em up actioner gunned down the competition with a lawful *$46.7 million, defeating the espionage spoof Johnny English, which snuck in at fourth place with a furtive $9.3 million, and the adolescent drama How To Deal, which opened in eighth position with a meager $5.8 million.
Bad Boys II also trounced last week's box office topper, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The swashbuckling tale, however, did not experience the typical second week drop off and continued to sail smoothly with an impressive $33.3 million--down only 29 percent from last week.
But while moviegoers demonstrated they hadn't had their fill of pirates just yet, they certainly weren't interested in learning how to deal. How To Deal failed to strike a chord with teen audiences, and it looks as though star Mandy Moore will find out what happens when the box office "gets turned upside down."
Rounding out the Top Five were the period thriller The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which came in third with $10.1 million, and the sci-fi actioner Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which landed in fifth place with $9.1 million.
THE TOP TEN
Sony Picture's R rated buddy actioner Bad Boys II premiered at the top of the box office with an ESTIMATED take of $46.7 million at 3,186 theaters. Its $14,658 per theater average was the highest of any film playing wide this weekend.
In the sequel, Miami narcotics detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett become part of a high-tech task force assigned to stem the flow of designer ecstasy into the city and inadvertently uncover a deadly conspiracy involving a ruthless drug lord.
Directed by Michael Bay, it stars Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Jordi Molla, Gabrielle Union and Peter Stormare.
Buena Vista Pictures' PG-13 rated fantasy actioner Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, last week's box office champ, came in second in its second week with an ESTIMATED $33.3 million (-29%) at 3,359 theaters (+90 theaters; $9,914 per theater). Its cume is $132.2 million.
Directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it stars Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13 rated period thriller The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fell one spot to third place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $10.1 million (-56%) at 3,002 theaters (unchanged; $3,364 per theater). Its cume is approximately $42.4 million.
Directed by Stephen Norrington, it stars Sean Connery, Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Tony Curran, Stuart Townsend, Shane West and Jason Flemyng.
Universal Pictures' PG rated spy spoof Johnny English took fourth place with an ESTIMATED $9.3 million at 2,236 theaters with a $4,159 per theater average.
In the film, the British Secret Service calls upon bumbling secret agent Johnny English when a plan to filch the monarchy's Crown Jewels comes to their attention.
Directed by Peter Howitt, it stars Rowan Atkinson, Natalie Imbruglia, Ben Miller and John Malkovich.
Warner Bros.' R rated sci-fi actioner Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines dropped two places to No. 5 in its third week with an ESTIMATED $9.1 million (-53%) at 3,404 theaters (-100; $2,701 per theater). Its cume is approximately $127.7 million.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow, it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes and Kristanna Loken.
Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar Animation Studios' G rated computer-animated feature Finding Nemo fell only one spot in its eighth week to sixth place with an ESTIMATED $7.3 million (-14%) at 2,408 theaters (-163 theaters; $2,944 per theater). Its cume is approximately $303.8 million.
Directed and co-written by Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton, it features the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe and Brad Garrett.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
MGM's PG-13 rated Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde fell three rungs to seventh in its third week with an ESTIMATED $6.1 million (-49%) at 3,205 theaters (-170 theaters; $1,903 per theater). Its cume is approximately $75.4 million.
Directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, it stars Reese Witherspoon, Sally Field, Regina King, Bob Newhart and Jennifer Coolidge.
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated drama How To Deal debuted disappointingly in eighth place with an ESTIMATED $2.5 million at 2,319 theaters with a $2,501 per theater average.
Based on a combination of two young adult romance novels by Sarah Dessen (Someone Like You and That Summer), the film revolves around a teenage girl who doesn't believe in storybook romance--until she meets the right guy.
Directed by Clare Kilner, it stars Mandy Moore, Trent Ford, Alexandra Holden, Allison Janney and Peter Gallagher.
Sony Picture's PG-13 rated Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle dropped three places to ninth in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $3.7 million (-48%) at 2,261 theaters (-941 theaters; $1,636 per theater). Its cume is approximately $89.1 million.
Directed by McG, it stars Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Bernie Mac.
Fox Searchlight's R rated sci-fi thriller 28 Days Later dropped one place to round out the Top Ten in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $2.5 million (-40%) at 1,310 theaters (-86 theaters; $1,947 per theater). Its cume is approximately $33.4 million.
Directed by Danny Boyle, it stars Cillian Murphy, Naomi Harris, Brendan Gleeson and Megan Burns.
Miramax's R rated crime drama Dirty Pretty Things opened in five theaters this weekend and took in an ESTIMATED $101,000 with a strong $20,200 per theater average.
In the film, a kind-hearted Nigerian doctor who works at a seedy West London hotel finds a human heart in one of the toilets and uncovers something far more sinister than just a common crime.
Directed by Stephen Frears, it stars Chewitil Ejiofor, Sergi Lopez and AudreyTautou.
Fox Searchlight's R rated musical comedy Garage Days, meanwhile, opened in 23 theaters and took in an ESTIMATED $21,160 with a $920 per theater average.
The film is a coming-of-age comedy about a young Sydney band trying to get a foothold in the competitive world of rock n' roll.
Directed by Alex Proyas, it stars Kick Gurry, Maya Stange, Pia Miranda and Chris Sadrinna.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $137.6 million, up a whopping 33.63 percent from last year's take of $102.9 million. The Top 12 films were also up .58 percent from last weekend when they grossed $136.8 million.
Last year, DreamWorks' R rated drama Road to Perdition topped the box office in its second week of release with $15.4 million at 2,159 theaters (+326 theaters; $7,139 per theater average), Sony's G rated Stuart Little 2 debuted in the No. 2 position with $15.1 million at 3,225 theaters with a $4,644 per theater average and Sony's PG-13 rated Men in Black II followed in third place in its third week with $14.5 million at 3,641 theaters ((+30; $3,997 per theater).