The Recruit wants us to believe the film's main thrust revolves around the Central Intelligence Agency's old maxim "nothing is what it seems." Had they stuck with this framework perhaps the film would have been more compelling. Instead it lapses into the expected and the implausible where you can pretty much guess exactly what's going to happen even if it really makes no sense. Our hapless protagonist James Clayton (Colin Farrell) is hustled by CIA recruiter Walter Burke (Al Pacino) who believes himself to be a "scary judge of talent" and sees James as prime CIA meat. When James hesitantly accepts the offer to come to The Farm he does so motivated less by helping his country and more by trying to find out what happened to his father who died mysteriously several years before and whom Burke alleges he knew. Once at The Farm James proves his mettle and is told again and again "it's in his blood." Ah then should we believe James' father who supposedly worked for Shell Oil really worked for the CIA as an NOC or Non-Official Cover agent one of the Agency's more prestigious--and dangerous--positions? The plot thickens. James also falls for fellow recruit Layla (Bridget Moynahan) but during an intense interrogation set-up he makes a serious error trying to save her and "washes out" of the program. Just when he thinks he's out forever James gets pulled back in by Burke who tells him all his trials and tribulations were just a test and that he is really NOC material and needed to root out a mole. Is it what it seems? Heavens no.
You'll be seeing a lot of Farrell in the coming months. Along with The Recruit this year alone he'll be in three major feature films including the upcoming comic-book actioner Daredevil; S.W.A.T. yet another feature based on a TV series; and the sniper movie Phone Booth. How has this 26-year-old Irish hunk risen so quickly in the ranks you might ask? Maybe it's because he has an uncanny ability to make the parts he plays completely believable. He slips easily into the Clayton character the quintessential CIA recruit with a daddy complex and fuels the film with the right amount of acting skills and smoldering good looks. Unfortunately his co-star the high and mighty Mr. Pacino is becoming a caricature of himself. Playing Burke is certainly no stretch for the actor and the film would not be complete without the requisite ranting scene where CIA veteran Burke tells the world all about it--voice booming words punctuated. It seems this has become the standard in any Pacino performance and frankly it's getting tiresome. Where's the quiet but powerful Michael Corleone when you need him? Moynahan (The Sum of All Fears) is somewhat bland as Clayton's love interest Layla. Word of advice: if Colin Farrell is making eyes at you go for it immediately. Don't waste any time.
For all its obviousness The Recruit does some things right. No stranger to the inner workings of our government agencies director Roger Donaldson who directed the Cuban Missile Crisis drama Thirteen Days and the Pentagon thriller No Way Out gives us access to the CIA training program or The Farm as its lovingly referred to--and it's one scary place. Obviously when making the film things had to be handled delicately as not to divulge too much so the film does take some creative liberties in showing the intense training the eager recruits have to face. That's fine with us--if we can't rely on death-defying stunts and car chases then outrageous mind games are generally good enough. But once The Recruit takes leave of The Farm the movie begins to fall apart. The inherent action set up for us in the first part--James finding out about his father the blossoming relationship between Layla and James who will be the NOC and the whole mole plot--just isn't as convincing to carry the film through its fruition. And being able to guess the next move isn't much fun either.
December 30, 2002 5:52am EST
Fantasy prevailed over reality this weekend as Steven Spielberg's fact-based Catch Me If You Can failed to con its way past the chimerical The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Together, however, they helped make the last weekend of 2002 the biggest Christmas weekend in box office history.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the second installment of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, wore the box office crown again with a regal $48.9 million*, while Catch Me If You Can managed to snare second place, bagging a crafty $30 million.
Marred by unfavorable reviews, Pinocchio--the only other film to open nationwide Friday--lumbered its way into theaters with a painfully truthful $1.1 million, averaging $954 in 1,195 theaters.
Gangs of New York expanded onto 686 more screens and made a bit of headway, scrounging another $11.2 million.
The top 12 films this weekend grossed $157 million--up 6.8 percent from last year when they totaled $147 million.
THE TOP TEN
New Line Cinema's PG-13 fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers hardly lost any sovereignty in its second week at the box office with a strong ESTIMATED $48.9 million (-21% at 3,622 theaters; $12,508 per theater).
After 12 days of release and a cume of approximately $200.1 million, The Two Towers is outpacing its predecessor The Fellowship of the Ring, which charmed audiences to the tune of $174 million in its first two weeks.
Directed by Peter Jackson, The Two Towers stars Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Ian Mckellen, Orlando Bloom and Liv Tyler.
DreamWorks' PG-13 rated crime biopic Catch Me If You Can failed to catch the No. 1 spot, but still bilked an impressive ESTIMATED $30 million from moviegoers at 3,156 theaters ($9,506 per theater).
Catch Me If You Can is based on the true story of Frank W. Abagnale, Jr., a successful con artist who assumed several different identities, all the while skirting an FBI agent hot on his trail.
Directed by Steven Spielberg, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen and Nathalie Baye.
Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice dropped a notch to third place with an ESTIMATED $16.1 million at 2,755 theaters ($5,849 per theater) in its second week. Its cume is approximately $43.6 million.
Directed by Marc D. Lawrence, it stars Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant.
Another romantic comedy, Sony Picture's PG-13 rated Maid in Manhattan, followed in fourth place in its third week with an ardent ESTIMATED $13 million (+21%) at 2,938 theaters (+72 theaters; $4,425 per theater). Its cume is approximately $57.4 million.
Directed by Wayne Wang, it stars Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Miramax Films' R rated period drama Gangs of New York fought its way down to fifth place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $11.2 million (+18%) at 2,190 theaters (+686 theaters; $5,114 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.1 million.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Daniel Day-Lewis.
Twentieth Century Fox's sleeper hit, the PG-13 rated musical comedy Drumline, skipped one beat down to sixth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $8.3 million (+17%) at 1,668 theaters -169 theaters; $5,006 per theater). Its cume is approximately $36.8 million, heading for $50 million.
Directed by Charles Stone, III, it stars Nick Cannon, Orlando Jones and Zoe Saldana.
Paramount Pictures' PG rated animated family pic The Wild Thornberrys Movie dropped a peg to seventh place with an ESTIMATED $7.4 million at 3,012 theaters ($2,457 per theater). Its cume is approximately $18.4 million.
Written and directed by Jeff McGrath and Cathy Malkasian, it features the voices of Lacey Chabert, Tom Kane, Rupert Everett, Lynn Redgrave and Marisa Tomei.
Warner Bros.' PG rated fantasy sequel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets gained a spot and finished eighth in its seventh week with an ESTIMATED $6.5 million (+49%) at 2,505 theaters (-245 theaters; $2,599 per theater). Its cume is approximately $240.3 million.
Directed by Chris Columbus, it stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson.
Buena Vista's PG-13 rated comedy The Hot Chick slipped to ninth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $4.8 million (+5%) at 2,246 theaters (+29 theaters; $2,137 per theater). Its cume is approximately $22.2 million.
Directed by Tom Brady, it stars Rob Schneider and Rachel McAdams.
Rounding out the Top 10 was MGM's PG-13 rated spy actioner Die Another Day, which remained in tenth place with an ESTIMATED $4.5 million (+10%) at 1,875 theaters (-200 theaters; $2,373 per theater). Its cume is approximately $146.7 million.
Directed by Lee Tamahori, it stars Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry.
Miramax's G rated fantasy adaptation Pinocchio opened wide with a disappointing ESTIMATED $1.1 million at 1,195 theaters--with a wooden $954 per theater.
The film is a remake of the classic children's tale, which centers on a wooden puppet who wants to become a real boy.
Dirceted by Roberto Benigni, it stars Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi and Carlo Giuffre.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
This weekend also saw the arrival of four new limited releases, including Chicago, The Hours, The Pianist and Nicholas Nickleby.
Miramax's PG-13 musical Chicago opened with an ESTIMATED $2.1 million at 77 theaters, with a whopping $27,299 per theater average. The film expands Jan. 3.
Chicago is based on the 1975 Kander & Ebb/Bob Fosse Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn had three predecessors: the 1942 film Roxie Hart, starring Ginger Rogers, a 1927 silent film titled Chicago and, finally, the original play by Maurine Dallas Watkins.
Directed by Rob Marshall, it stars Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger and Richard Gere.
Paramount's PG-13-rated literary drama The Hours opened to a solid $0.3 million at 11 theaters, with a per theater average of $40,000--the highest of any film this week. The film goes wide on Jan. 17.
The Hours revolves around three very different women--one being Virginia Woolf--in various time periods, all wrestling with issues of freedom, responsibility and identity.
Directed by Stephen Daldry, the film stars Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Ed Harris and Claire Danes.
Focus Features' R rated drama The Pianist opened with an ESTIMATED $0.1 million at 6 theaters, with a $17,342 per theater average.
The film is based on the autobiography of the acclaimed Polish composer, Wladyslaw Szpilman, detailing his survival during World War II and his narrow escape from a roundup that sent his family to a death camp.
Directed by Roman Polanski, the film stars Adrien Brody.
Finally, MGM released the PG rated drama Nicholas Nickleby, which opeend to an ESTIMATED $.04 million at 5 theaters, with an estimated $8,600 per theater average.
The film is an adaptation of the classic novel by Charles Dickens.
Directed by Doug McGrath, it stars Charlie Hunnam, Jamie Bell, Nathan Lane, Christopher Plummer, Jim Broadbent and Anne Hathaway.
The top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $157.1 million, up about 18.47 percent from last weekend when they totaled $132.6 million.
The top 12 were also up 6.8 percent from last year when they totaled $147 million.
Last year, New Line's second weekend of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was first with $38.6 million at 3,359 theaters ($11,520 per theater); and Warner Bros.' fourth week of Ocean's Eleven was second with $16.9 million at 3,075 theaters ($5,498 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $55.5 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $90.4 million.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
John Q is just your ordinary average blue-collar worker in Middle America trying to make ends meet. Unfortunately things are slow at the plant and John's hours have been cut in half. To make matters worse his wife's car has just been repossessed and he can't find a second job to bring in more income. Then the hammer really falls: his son collapses during a Little League game and the doctors say the boy needs a new heart--and fast--or he will die. When John finds out that his insurance won't cover the operation (his policy has been downgraded by his company because his hours were cut) and that the hospital won't put his son on the organ transplant list without a stiff up-front cash payment John takes matters into his own hands. Holding the ER hostage John demands that the hospital put his son on the organ transplant list.
Denzel Washington is Everyman letting his hair get unruly packing on some un-Hollywood-star inches around the middle and wearing nothing but cheap hats and jeans. Despite some silly screenwriting Washington manages to raise John above soap-opera dramatics and weak polemics ("The enemy is us--we shot down national healthcare") with genuine emotion and convincing resolve but barely. James Woods is perfect as the sniveling smarmy and supercilious doctor but unfortunately he and the rest of the talented cast are wasted as one-dimensional characters and saddled with routine clichéd dialogue. Anne Heche (who should be commended for taking on such a villainous role) is the icy hospital administrator; Robert Duvall is the by-the-book hostage negotiator; Ray Liotta is the trigger-tempered police chief; and Shawn Hatosy is the big-city brat who just won't stand for being a hostage. The rest of the hostages aren't even remotely interesting nor are any of the other characters.
While weak dialogue is partially to blame when a cast as strong as this one can't breathe real life into their characters some of the culpability must be laid at the feet of the director. Nick Cassavetes' (She's So Lovely) movie suffers from heavy-handed treatment: every five minutes the audience is beaten over the head (again) as someone rails against the country's failing health system and places guilt on this party or that complete with obligatory tight close-up shot (and halo) directly on that character. Not to mention Cassavetes tips his hand with the opening scene. The patter by screenwriter James Kearns (TV's Highway to Heaven) is cute at times but on the whole the script is didactic yet inane and would make for a poor episode of E.R.. The story however does manage to engage the audience on an emotional level with its timely message. One cannot help but root for John Q no matter his vigilante ways. After John's denouement Cassavetes closes the film with news clips of celebrities stumping for the cause. This is typical of the movie as a whole; while it attempts to deal with the serious issue of health care reform it only does so on the most superficial level.
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."
PASADENA, Calif., July 25, 2000 - Members of the Television Critics Association have now been holed up in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel for two weeks eating catered food, drying hands on warm restroom towels, and never fearing to ask the tough questions. On Monday, it was The WB's turn to show off their new fall schedule additions, so the tough questions mostly dealt with the "Felicity" haircut controversy.
For the record, no one who appears on camera at the WB will ever cut his or her hair again.
The day started off fast when the entire cast of the new sketch comedy show "Hype" came out in character and ripped the place up. Cast member Frank Caliendo then returned later in the day to wake us up with what could have been 15 minutes worth of stand-up material, condensed into a blistering five-minute set. Co-producer and SNL veteran Terry Sweeny billed the show as "Laugh-in 2000." If the talent is any indication, "Hype" might just live up to its name.
"Drew Carey" producer Bruce Helford offers a welcome repackaging of Nikki Cox in "Nikki," a (somewhat) innovative comedy that features big dance numbers in each episode (it's funnier than it sounds). Helford later assured us that big song and dance routines will be back in vogue this fall.
Former "Beverly Hills 90210" producer Darren Starr is offering a clever comedy-within-a-drama in "Gross Pointe," a show about the actors of an Aaron Spelling-like night-time soap. Starr was grilled about the controversial decision to change a certain character that was similar to a certain person who may or may not have gotten a role because her father produced the show. Starr's best answer was his first, "who are you talking about?"
At the "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" Q-and-A with Melissa Joan Hart and her mother-producer Paula Hart, we learned in no uncertain terms that "Caroline Rhea (absent with a broken toe) is under contract and cannot be spared" if she were to be offered Kathie Lee Gifford's chair next to Regis in the morning. So, put that one to bed.
Of all the new WB shows, watch for "Gilmore Girls," a warm, earthy, dramatic comedy sure to win a strong following. It's interesting how the world is populated by lots of single mothers, yet they are still a rarity on TV. Gilmore Girls" might change that.
Finally, considering last year's after-party got out of hand (word was the WB's young stars got a little too rowdy), this year the network decided to rein things in and go a little classier at the Il Fornaio restaurant in Old Town Pasadena. All the stars politely mingled with the journalists (having learned these parties are just supposed to look like fun, not actually be fun) to lob out a few more crucial sound bites about Keri Russell's hair, then left early (perhaps to party somewhere else).