Based on a series of six Marvel Comics created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby in 1962 The Hulk revolves around a scientist named Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) who following a laboratory snafu absorbs a normally deadly dose of gamma radiation. Bruce thinks he has escaped unscathed--until he gets mad ... real mad which causes him to turn into a huge rampaging green monster known as the Hulk. In order to make this 40-year-old gamma theory somewhat more believable for today's science-savvy moviegoers screenwriter James Schamus and his team decided to arm the script with a somewhat more convincing scientific rationale. The story follows Bruce's father David Banner (Nick Nolte) who as a young scientist conducted prohibited genetic experiments on himself thus changing his son's life before he was even out of the womb. While modernizing the scientific reasoning behind Bruce's transformation makes sense it's a pity it had to be done in such a heavy-handed way. By adding such an elaborate layer to the story The Hulk becomes more about Bruce and David's tormented past and any semblance of a plot is buried in melodramatic dialogue between the characters. The result is a comic book adaptation that is much too serious for its own genre.
Despite the theatrical discourse don't expect complex characters to emerge from The Hulk. Although Bana (Black Hawk Down) is a good choice for the lead of the nerdy scientist and reluctant hero his character is so busy pretending he doesn't have any problems that the audience never gets to see his emotional side. Bana's character grimaces convincingly as he represses his anger for example but he fails ever to open up on a personal level to his love interest in the film his co-worker Betty played by Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind). Betty is Bruce's old flame but the two are obviously still in love: she is obsessed with fixing whatever is broken about him. As the Hulk Bruce need only look at Betty once for his anger to subside and allow him to morph back into human form. They have weighty discussions about the significance of their dreams and Bruce's past yet they never seem to connect on any level. One of the film's best performances comes from Nolte (The Good Thief) in the role of Bruce's mad scientist father David. Almost Shakespearean at times Nolte--scraggly hair and all-- completely immerses himself in the role. The cast's performances however are muted by the general heaviness of this would-be actioner. Look for quick cameo appearances by Lou Ferrigno (from the 1970s TV series The Incredible Hulk) and Marvel legend Stan Lee.
For his follow-up to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Ang Lee has turned to bigger greener matters. The Hulk the director's visual effects-intense picture (with a little help from Industrial Light & Magic) is stunning and startlingly well done. The green beast's computer generated movements from his heaving chest to the single leaps that spring him well into a different zip code are convincingly real. Not only does the ground shake when this goliath lands but his momentum even throws him off balance at times sending his lumbering arms flailing. But while the CGI Hulk has been meticulously honed Lee's homage to the world of print comic books--using multiple screens to present concurrent storylines and alternate angles of the same scene--is off-putting: Rival researcher Glenn Talbot (Josh Lucas) suspiciously walks out of the lab Betty reacts in one panel Bruce sits back in another. The simultaneous screens don't necessarily show anything pertinent going on making the far and wide close and medium shots of the character's reactions a distraction rather than a helpful storytelling technique. But the most disconcerting thing about the film is that in its leap from the four-color paneled pages to the big screen it lost its wit.
The Musketeer stormed this weekend's box office, capturing first place with nearly $11 million.
The independently made PG-13 rated action adventure, whose acquisition costs were shared by Universal and Miramax, is being distributed in North America by Universal and in the U.K. by Miramax. The Universal and Miramax presentation is a production from D'Artagnan Productions Ltd., Apollomedia, Q&Q Media and Carousel Picture Company.
Musketeer topped the chart with an ESTIMATED $10.7 million at 2,438 theaters ($4,390 per theater), an energetic showing for the traditionally quiet first weekend after Labor Day and the end of summer.
Directed by Peter Hyams, it stars Catherine Deneuve, Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea, Tim Roth and Justin Chambers. The film was produced by Moshe Diamant and executive produced by Mark Damon, Steven Paul, Rudy Cohen, Frank Hubner and Romain Schroeder.
Driven by Musketeer, ticket sales for key films--those grossing $500,000 or more for the weekend--were approximately $69.8 million, up nearly 29 percent from last year's post-Labor Day weekend total of $54.1 million.
"We're pleased," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "Strategically, when we made the deal with Miramax as a partner on Musketeer--they're going to release it in the U.K. and we have North American rights--knowing that we were successful with The Watcher last year on the same weekend we saw an opportunity here believing that Rock Star and Two Can Play That Game were (aimed) at different targets.
"We had a magnificent trailer on Musketeer that made it look very different from all the (other movies about the Musketeers). Taking the opportunity to play this incredible trailer with American Pie 2 gave it a lot of visibility. This is the end result. American Pie 2 has done over $131 million worth of business."
Focusing on the acquisition of Musketeer, Rocco pointed out, "Universal's share was $3.75 million. It's a very profitable thing for us. We were very strategic about how we did it. We wanted to be away from all of the high profile (summer) films. This is the weekend last year that we opened another acquisition, The Watcher, to $9.1 million. It was the number one film and made money for us, grossing (about) $29 million (in domestic theaters)."
Sony's Screen Gems label opened its R rated urban appeal romantic comedy Two Can Play That Game to a sexy ESTIMATED $8.3 million at 1,297 theaters ($6,400 per theater).
Game's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Written and directed by Mark Brown, it stars Vivica Fox and Anthony Anderson.
"It's a $6 million negative (in terms of Sony's cost) and we certainly hope we're headed to at least the mid-$20 millions," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
"A very profitable Screen Gems release. Another low cost, highly focused entertaining release that I think really was handled very nicely by the team at Screen Gems--similar to The Brothers, which came out earlier this year and opened to $10.3 million (the weekend of Mar. 23-25 at 1,378 theaters, averaging $7,477 per theater), but was in a tougher period and dropped off pretty dramatically. This one in the fall, hopefully, will hold on a little bit and end up with similar results. Brothers ended up with about $28 million."
Blake added that he feels Screen Gems is "doing a very nice job with highly focused pictures that have great appeal to a segment of the audience. And they're doing a nice job getting the word out to them at a pretty reasonable price."
Bel-Air Entertainment's R rated drama Rock Star opened quietly via Warner Bros. in a tie for third place to an ESTIMATED $6.18 million at 2,525 theaters ($2,446 per theater). The film was financed by Bel-Air and is being released by Warners.
Directed by Stephen Herek, it stars Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston.
"It's a little disappointing, obviously, but our exits were pretty good," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "It was about 50-50 male-female and primarily 18-35. The one thing that stood out in the exits was that everybody liked a href="/celebrity/Mark_Wahlberg/197412" >Mark Wahlberg's performance in the movie. The best markets we had, not surprisingly, were college towns--like Boston was big. We're hoping to just hang in there through the fall and maybe we won't take these big drops that everybody's been taking in the summer."
MGM's Jeepers Creepers, the R rated horror film from the studio's United Artists label, which was first last week, tied for third place in its second week with a less scary ESTIMATED $6.17 million (-53%) at 2,944 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,095 per theater). Its cume is approximately $24.3 million.
Written and directed by Victor Salva, it stars Gina Phillips, Justin Long, Jonathan Breck and Eileen Brennan.
(NOTE: Percentage comparisons indicated today are against the Friday through Sunday portion of the previous weekend, the four day Labor Day weekend.)
Dimension Films' PG-13 thriller The Others fell one rung to fifth in its fifth week, still showing good legs with an ESTIMATED $6.1 million (-25%) at 2,737 theaters (+21 theaters; $2,228 per theater). The Others, which cost only $17 million to make, has a cume of approximately $67.6 million, heading for $75-80 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Alejandro Amenabar, it stars Nicole Kidman.
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated action comedy blockbuster sequel Rush Hour 2 dropped four notches in its sixth week with an okay ESTIMATED $5.85 million (-37%) at 2,546 theaters (-279 theaters; $2,298 per theater). Its cume is approximately $206.1 million, heading for $210-215 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Brett Ratner, it stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.
"It's the highest grossing film in New Line history," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "It's the number two picture of the year and of the summer. The little movie that could!"
Asked why the film worked so well, Tuckerman replied, "It's basically give the public what they want to see and they will come. That's the bottom line. The movie was funnier than the first. It delivered. And the public wanted to see more of what the first one was--and they got it."
Universal's R rated youth appeal comedy hit sequel American Pie 2 slid three pegs to seventh place in its fifth week with a less tempting ESTIMATED $4.74 million (-47%) at 2,777 theaters (-337 theaters; $1,705 per theater). Pie 2, which cost about $30 million to make, has a cume of approximately $131.2 million, heading for $140 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by J.B. Rogers, it stars Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas and Eugene Levy.
Paramount's PG-13 comedy Rat Race fell three rungs to eighth place in its fourth week with an unexciting ESTIMATED $4.4 million (-39%) at 2,551 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,725 per theater). Its cume is approximately $43.2 million.
Directed by Jerry Zucker, it stars Rowan Atkinson, John Cleese, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Seth Green, Jon Lovitz, Breckin Meyer and Amy Smart.
Buena Vista/Disney's G rated family comedy hit The Princess Diaries dropped three notches to ninth place in its sixth week with a less royal ESTIMATED $3.4 million (-40%) at 2,410 theaters (-280 theaters; $1,420 per theater). Its cume is approximately $97.1 million, heading for $100 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Garry Marshall, it stars Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Lions Gate Films' controversial R rated high school set violent drama O, down three pegs with a soft ESTIMATED $2.7 million (-53%) at 1,445 theaters (+11 theaters; $1,869 per theater). Its cume is approximately $10.8 million.
Directed by Tim Blake Nelson, it stars Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett and Julia Stiles.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Artisan Entertainment's PG-13 rated youth appeal thriller Soul Survivors to a deadly ESTIMATED $1.1 million at 601 theaters ($1,765 per theater).
Written and directed by Steve Carpenter, it stars Casey Affleck and Wes Bentley.
Paramount Classics' R rated drama Our Lady of the Assassins kicked off to a hopeful ESTIMATED $0.056 million at 4 theaters ($13,886 per theater).
Directed by Barbet Schroeder, it stars German Jaramillo and Anderson Ballesteros.
This weekend saw Paramount hold sneak previews Saturday night of its PG-13 rated baseball drama Hardball.
Directed by Brian Robbins, it stars Keanu Reeves and Diane Lane.
"Hardball went very well," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "It played to 59 percent capacity. The reactions were 59 percent excellent and 37 percent good and very good and 4 percent fair (in Paramount's exit polls). 96 percent in the Top Two boxes. The audience was a little older, primarily 20-plus with families. So there's a mix of older-with-families."
Hardball opens Friday (Sept. 14) at about 2,100 theaters.
On the expansion front, this weekend saw Fox Searchlight Pictures R rated hit thriller The Deep End go wider in its fifth week with a still encouraging ESTIMATED $0.9 million (-35%) at 401 theaters (+75 theaters; $2,254 per theater). Its cume is approximately $5.8 million.
Written produced and directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, it stars Tilda Swinton, Goran Visnjic and Jonathan Tucker.
MGM's release of United Artists' R rated youth appeal comedy Ghost World continued to widen in its eighth week with an okay ESTIMATED $0.39 million (-12%) at 91 theaters (+10 theaters; $4,246 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.7 million.
Directed by Terry Swigoff, it stars Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Brad Renfro, Illeana Douglas and Steve Buscemi.
Miramax's R rated Apocalypse Now Redux widened in its sixth week with a still promising ESTIMATED $0.29 million (-35%) at 92 theaters (+11 theaters; $3,097 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.2 million.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, it stars Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper and Harrison Ford.
On the international front, Universal reported that its domestic blockbuster The Fast and the Furious had its first major international release this weekend in Mexico with a strong ESTIMATED $0.75 million at 237 theaters, putting it number one in the market. Over the next three months Fast will open around the world, including this Friday (Sept. 14) in the U.K. and Sept. 20 in Australia.
Domestically, Fast is winding down its theatrical run after 12 weeks with a cume of $142.5 million.
Universal also said Sunday morning that its international release of Jurassic Park III has now hit $160 million with eight countries yet to open. Domestically, JP III has a cume of $177 million, giving it a worldwide cume to date of about $337 million.
Bridget Jones's Diary, which Universal and Miramax co-financed, has done about $122 million in its international release via Universal and still has 12 countries to open.
Universal said that in its third weekend in Germany Bridget moved up to first place with a $2.1 million gross that was up 1 percent from the previous weekend and up 43 percent from its opening weekend. Its cume in Germany is now $8.2 million.
In its third weekend in Austria, Bridget moved back to first place, grossing $265,000 at 65 theaters with a cume of $1.3 million.
Bridget opened in Hong Kong this weekend to very strong ticket sales of $238,000 at 24 theaters. Universal said its gross was 155 percent bigger than the opening for Billy Elliot, 55 percent ahead of Shakespeare in Love and 20 percent better than Liar, Liar.
Final top ten list for summer of 2001
Based on their actual cumes through Labor Day (Sept. 3), this summer's top ten grossing films were:
(1) Shrek (DreamWorks)- $262,908,727
(2) The Mummy Returns (Universal) - $201,707,090
(3) Rush Hour 2 (New Line) - $198,892,734
(4) Pearl Harbor (BV/Touchstone) - $196,656,492
(5) Jurassic Park III (Universal) - $175,832,085
(6) Planet of the Apes (Fox) - $173,069,748
(7) The Fast and the Furious (Universal) - $142,028,935
(8) Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (Paramount) - $130,722,949
(9) American Pie 2 (Universal) - $124,928,149
(10) Dr. Dolittle 2 (Fox) - $111,484,392
Key films--those grossing more than $500,000--took in approximately $69.77 million, up about 28.97 per cent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $54.1 million.
This weekend's key film gross cannot be compared to last weekend of this year, which was a four day holiday weekend.
Last year, Universal's opening week of The Watcher was first with $9.06 million at 2,742 theaters ($3,305 per theater); and USA Films' opening week of Nurse Betty was second with $7.15 million at 1,459 theaters ($4,898 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $16.2 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $19.0 million.
Supermom Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her geneticist husband Norman (Harrison Ford) are adapting to their only daughter's departure to college when Claire begins sensing an unearthly presence in the couple's lakeside Vermont dream home. Is she losing her marbles or is that the spirit of a beautiful young woman she keeps glimpsing? To say any more (as the too-explicit ad campaign does) would spoil some delicious twists.
The toplining Ford is his usual solid self in a role that plays cleverly on his familiar persona but the picture is Pfeiffer's from beginning to end. She delivers one of her most pleasing performances nicely disarming audience doubts about the story's supernatural elements with some judicious eye-rolling and embarrassed frowning -- her character is so painfully aware that what she's saying sounds crazy how can we possibly doubt her? Among the low-key supporting cast Joe Morton ("Terminator 2") stands out as an amiably down-to-earth psychiatrist.
Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump") takes Clark Gregg's highly derivative haunted house script and pours on the Hitchcockian visual flourishes unapologetically pilfering from the Master's "Rear Window" and "Psycho " among others. His extended homage results in scene after scene of almost unbearable tension as the audience waits for the next shock. There's some clunky storytelling in the first section but the all-suspense second half more than makes up for it with some classic work including what seems destined to go down in movie history as "the bathtub scene."