The Amazing Spider-Man would prefer if you didn't call it the fourth Spider-Man movie. See this ain't the Spider-Man your older brother knew from ten years ago — it's a reboot. The latest adventure to feature the comic book webslinger throws three movies worth of established mythology straight out the window swapping the original cast with an ensemble of fresh faces and resetting the franchise with a spiffy new origin story. "New" in the loosest sense of the word — the highlights of ASM mainly a sleek new design and spunky reinterpretation of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and gal pal Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) are weighed down by overpowering sense of familiarity. Nearly a beat for beat replica of the 2002 original with some irksome twists of mystery thrown in Amazing Spider-Man fails to evolve its hero or his quarrels. The film has a great sense of cinematic power but little responsibility in making it interesting.
We're first introduced to Peter Parker as a young boy watching as his parents rush out of the house in response to a hidden danger. Mr. and Mrs. Parker leave their son in the care of his Aunt May (Sally Fields) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) who raise him into Andrew Garfield's geeky cool spin on the character. Parker's a science whiz but faces the challenges of every day life — passing classes talking to girls the occasional jock with aggression issues — but all of life's woes are put on hold when the teen discovers a new clue in the mystery behind his parents' disappearance. The discovery of his dad's old briefcase and notes leads Peter to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) a scientist working for mega-conglomerate Oscorp and his Dad's old partner. When they cross paths Connors instantly takes a liking to the wunderkind and loops him into the work he started with his father: replicating the regeneration abilities of lizards in amputee humans (Connors is driven to reform his own missing arm). But when Parker wanders into Oscorp's room full of spiders (a sloppily explained this-needs-to-be-here-for-this-to-happen device) he receives his legendary spider bite that transforms him into the hero we know.
Director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) desperately wants Amazing Spider-Man to work as a high school relationship movie but with the burden of massive amounts of plot and mythology to introduce the movie sags under the sheer volume of stuff. Stone turns Parker's object of affection Gwen Stacey into a three-dimensional character. Whenever they happen upon each other an awkward exchange in the hallway a flirtatious back-and-forth in the Oscorp lab (where Stacey is head…intern) or when the two finally begin a romantic relationship the two stars shine. They're vivid characters chopped to bits in the editing room diluted by boring franchise-building plot threads and routine action sequences. Seriously Amazing Spider-Man another mad scientist villain who uses himself as a test subject only to become a monster? And another bridge rescue scene? Amazing Spider-Man desperately wants to disconnect from the original trilogy but it's trapped in an inescapable shadow and does nothing radical to shake things up. Instead it settles for the same old same old while preparing for inevitable sequels instead of investing in its dynamic duo.
There's a sweet spot where the film really hits his stride. After discovering his spider-abilities Peter hits the streets for the first time. He's superhuman but still a headstrong teen full of obnoxious quips and close calls with shiv-wielding thugs. The action is slick small and playful Webb showing us something new by melding his indie sensibilities with big scale action. If only it lasted — the introduction of Ifans reptilian half The Lizard implodes Amazing Spider-Man into incomprehensible blockbuster chaos. A gargantuan beast wreaking havoc around New York City promises King Kong-like escapades for the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man but the lizard man has other plans: to rule the world! Or something. Whatever it takes to get Lizard and Spider-Man fighting on the top of a skyscraper over a doomsday machine — logic be damned.
Amazing Spider-Man peppers its banal foundation with great talent from Denis Leary as Gwen's wickedly funny dad and the police captain hunting down Spider-Man to Fields and Sheen as two loving adults in Peter's life to Garfield and Stone whose chemistry demands a follow-up for the sake of seeing them reunited. But it's all at the cost of putting on the most expensive recreation of all time with new demands imposed by the success Marvel's other properties (except that franchise teasing worked). Amazing Spider-Man introduces too many ideas that go nowhere undermining the actual threat at hand. No one wants to be unfulfilled but that's the overriding difference between the original movie and the update. You need to pay for the sequel to know what the heck is going on in this one.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
Moviegoers fell in love with "Heartbreakers" this weekend, giving MGM its second straight first place opening this year.
The PG-13-rated romantic comedy from MGM and Davis Entertainment captured the top spot with a frisky estimated $12.3 million at 2,750 theaters ($4,468 per theater).
Directed by David Mirkin, "Heartbreakers" stars Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Gene Hackman.
"Two in a row," MGM worldwide distribution president Larry Gleason said Sunday morning, referring to the studio's Number One openings for "Hannibal" in February and now "Heartbreakers." "The last time (MGM had two consecutive first place openings) was 1995 with 'Get Shorty' and 'GoldenEye,' which were back to back pictures. The Lion is back again!
"This is right where we wanted ('Heartbreakers') to be. We're happy for it. The plan that we had of aggressively screening this picture (with sneak previews two consecutive Saturday nights) and showing that it was fun also helped us get an audience that's a little bit younger. Jennifer Love Hewitt was a key to that. The fact that we have her in this movie has enabled us to get more young people in."
Looking at the film's audience composition, Gleason noted it was, "60-40 female-male. It got a 68% definite
recommend against a norm of 50% and that's great. It was pretty evenly older women-younger women, males were a
little bit lighter. The Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) are 83%. It bodes well for the future."
Sony's Screen Gems division opened its R-rated urban appeal comedy "The Brothers" in second place with a
muscular estimated $10.7 million at 1,378 theaters ($7,765 per theater).
"Brothers" had the highest per-theater average for any film playing in wide release last weekend.
Written and directed by Gary Hardwick, "Brothers" stars Morris Chestnut, D.L. Hughley, Bill Bellamy and Shemar Moore.
"This is a very focused release with half the prints of the other top pictures this week and has an incredibly strong screen average," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "It has an A CinemaScore, which really makes you believe that those 1,378 runs are going to be playing for a long time."
"Brothers" should be nicely profitable for Sony. "It's a $6 million negative," Blake said. "We always had our eye on Universal's release of 'Best Man,' which was similar certainly (in being an) African-American romantic comedy. They opened Oct. 22, 1999, in 1,346 screens to $9,031,660 and did $34.1 million. So we always have had our eye on that one, and the fact that we've beat it pretty significantly really gives us hope that this is definitely a picture we can get into the mid-$30 millions or $40 millions. At a $6 million cost, that's a terrific piece of business."
Sony's Screen Gems label, he said, "is really on a bit of a roll here after 'Snatch.' Their next release is (the horror genre drama) 'The Foresaken' on April 27 (directed by J.S. Cardone and starring Kerr Smith and Brendan Fehr), and then they have 'John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars' (directed by Carpenter and starring Ice Cube, Jason Statham and Natasha Henstridge) this summer. It's a very wonderful, focused marketing job by the Screen Gems group. You can give the credit to Valerie Van Galder, who's the head of marketing, and Clint Culpepper, who's the head of production. They really teamed up for a good one here."
Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures' R-rated action drama "Exit Wounds" slid two pegs to third place in its second week with a less-penetrating estimated $9.23 million (-50%) at 2,830 theaters (theater count unchanged; $3,260 per theater). Its cume is approximately $32.6 million.
Directed by Andrez Bartkowiak, "Exit" was produced by Joel Silver and Dan Cracchiolo. It stars Steven Seagal and DMX and was executive produced by Bruce Berman.
Paramount's R-rated World War II drama "Enemy at the Gates" from Mandalay Pictures added theaters in its second week but still fell two rungs to fourth place with a quieter estimated $8.4 million (-39%) at 1,677 theaters (+168 theaters; $5,009 per theater). Its cume is approximately $26.2 million.
Produced and directed by Jean-Jacques Annuad, "Enemy" stars Joseph Fiennes, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Bob Hoskins and Ed Harris.
"I was a little disappointed in the Friday figure, but Saturday came back real strong. We were down 29% on
Saturday, and I'm figuring about 40% today (Sunday) because the Academy Awards will impact us a little more than it will some of the other films, (because 'Enemy' is) more adult and a little more upscale," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning.
Sony Pictures Classics' Oscar-contending, PG-13-rated action adventure "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" rose one peg to fifth place in its 16th week, still basking in the glow of its 10 Oscar nominations with an estimated $4.65 million (+15%) at 2,027 theaters (+167 theaters; $2,295 per theater). Its cume is approximately $106.3 million.
"Tiger's" nominations include Best Picture, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director. Director Ang Lee won the Directors Guild of America's award and is favored to win the Best Director Oscar.
Directed by Ang Lee, "Dragon" stars Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat.
Asked where "Tiger" goes from here, Sony Pictures Classics sales vice president Tom Prassis said Sunday morning, "We'll know tonight. I have a goal in mind if it wins, but I'm not going to tell you what that is. It's a significant number."
Have the nominations been a big help to "Tiger" at the box office? "They have," Prassis replied, "but I think the film has really done it on its own, as well. I'm not sure if it would have done $100 million (without its Oscar attention). But there are people who are going to see it over and over again. A lot of them are kids, and those aren't the people who pay attention to the Academy Awards. Right now we're reaching the people of my generation, who do follow the awards, I think more than before. That's who we're going after now. There's a lot of them."
DreamWorks' R-rated drama "The Mexican" skidded three notches to sixth place in its fourth week with a dull estimated $4.3 million (-46%) at 3,043 theaters (-119 theaters; $1,419 per theater). Its cume is approximately $57.7 million.
Directed by Gore Verbinski, "Mexican" stars Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.
USA Films' R-rated, Oscar-contending drama "Traffic" rose three pegs to seventh place in its 13th week, still making the most of the Oscar nominations spotlight with an estimated $3.9 million (+14%) at 1,684 theaters (+2 theaters; $2,320 per theater). Its cume is approximately $107.6 million, heading for about $120 million if it does not win Best Picture and about $140 million if it does.
"Traffic" is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, "Traffic" stars Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quaid and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Miramax's PG-13-rated, Oscar-contending romantic comedy drama "Chocolat," which was ninth last week, tied for eighth place in its 15th week, still holding very well on the eve of the Oscars with an estimated $3.3 million (-4%) at 1,781 theaters (-120 theaters; $1,852 per theater). Its cume is approximately $60.6 million.
"Chocolat" is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture.
"It'll probably work its way to just about $70 million," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow
said Sunday morning of the film, which only cost around $15 million. "This is definitely a profitable situation."
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, "Chocolat" stars Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin and Johnny Depp.
Warner Bros.' G-rated family appeal comedy "See Spot Run" from Village Roadshow Pictures, which was fourth last week, tied for eighth place in its fourth week with a slower estimated $3.3 million (-33%) at 2,605 theaters (-51 theaters; $1,282 per theater). Its cume is approximately $29.2 million, heading for $40 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by John Whitesel, "Run" stars David Arquette.
Rounding out the Top Ten was 20th Century Fox's opening of "Say It Isn't So" with a disappointing estimated $3.1 million at 1,973 theaters ($1,572 per theater).
Directed by J.B. Rogers, "Say" stars Heather Graham and Chris Klein.
There were no other noteworthy openings this weekend.
20th Century Fox held 189 sneak previews Saturday night of Fox 2000's PG-13-rated comedy "Someone Like You." The film opens March 30 at about 2,000 theaters.
"The reports I've gotten back are fabulous," Fox domestic distribution president Bruce Snyder said early
Sunday morning as he was starting to get details about the sneaks. "All the reports so far are sell-outs. I haven't
gotten all of them in, but they're very encouraging, very pleasing. It played wonderfully. It's a date night movie."
Directed by Tony Goldwyn, "Someone Like You" stars Ashley Judd, Greg Kinnear and Hugh Jackman.
On the expansion front, this weekend saw Sony Pictures Classics go wider with its R-rated drama "Pollock" in its seventh week, grossing a still colorful estimated $0.85 million (+13%) at 271 theaters (+42 theaters; $3,119 per theater). Its cume is approximately $4.9 million.
"Pollock" received Oscar
nominations for Best Actor (Ed Harris)
and Best Supporting Actress (Marcia Gay Harden).
Directed by Ed Harris, "Pollock"
stars Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden.
"Very respectable. In an ordinary year, this would be a big film (for the company)," Sony Pictures Classics sales vice president Tom Prassis said Sunday morning, after discussing the blockbuster success of "Crouching Tiger."
Newmarket's R-rated film noir thriller "Memento" added a theater in its second week and continued to look very promising with an estimated $0.24 million (even) at 12 theaters (+1 theater; $19,627 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.6 million.
Directed by Christopher Nolan, it stars Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano.
USA Films' R-rated reality TV satire "Series 7" added a theater in its fourth week with a slow estimated $0.026 million (-28%) at 11 theaters (+1 theater; $2,320 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.15 million.
Written and directed by Daniel Minahan, "Series" stars Brooke Smith, Glenn Fitzgerald, Mary Louise Burke, Richard Venture, Michael Kaycheck and Merrit Wever.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $76.40 million, down about 3.98% from
the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $79.57 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down about 2.48% from last weekend this year when key films did $78.34 million.
Last year, Universal's second week of "Erin Brockovich" was first with $18.55 million at 2,851 theaters ($6,505 per theater); and Warner Bros.' opening week of "Romeo Must Die" was second with $18.01 million at 2,641 theaters ($6,821 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $36.5 illion. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $23.0 million.
After catching her live-in boyfriend in a compromising position Amanda sets out to find a new place to live. She ends up rooming with four supermodels (Shalom Harlow Ivana Milicevic Sarah O'Hare and Tomiko Fraser) whose apartment has a great view -- especially of Jim the "perfect guy" across the way. When Amanda in a "Rear Window"- type scenario witnesses Jim committing what she thinks is a murder she sets out to prove that he did it. However to her surprise she ends up falling head over heels (literally a lot of the time) for him instead.
The chemistry between Prinze and Potter is near perfect. Potter does a great job of playing a klutzy girl who can't seem to stay on her feet long enough to have a conversation with Jim. But then again who could? Prinze exudes his usual charm and winning smile while at the same time showing great comic timing. The more pivotal moments with the four models who are "struggling " as they like to say are well done and surprisingly hysterical. Who needs a drama when you can have four models who are actually funny?
Director Mark S. Waters and Prinze Jr. are together again after their 1997 film "The House of Yes." "Head Over Heels" is a cross between "Fatal Attraction " "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "There's Something About Mary " which means it's a bit muddled in its direction. Waters tries a little too hard for the shock value while at the same time trying to convey romantic comedy elements almost overshadowing the performances of the actors. But hey then again we get to see supermodels covered in poop. Priceless. Still the fairly clever and darker script plus the winning chemistry between the lead actors makes it worthwhile.