While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
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.
Spider-Man was no itsy-bitsy spider, scaling the box office heights with a $114 million launch that shattered all opening weekend records.
The Scorpion King plunged 47 percent to second place with $9.6 million as its cume neared $75 million. Changing Lanes hit the brakes in third place with $5.6 million. Murder by Numbers finished fourth with $3.8 million. The Rookie and Life or Something Like It were neck and neck for fifth place with $3.3 million.
Propelled by Spider-Man, key films--those grossing $500,000 or more--totaled $158 million, up a phenomenal 51 percent from last year's $104.6 million. Business soared a breathtaking 96.5 percent over the previous weekend's $80.4 million.
THE TOP TEN
Columbia's PG-13 action-adventure sci-fi fantasy Spider-Man leaped into first place with an unprecedented ESTIMATED $114.0 million at 3,615 theaters and 7,500-plus screens ($31,535 per theater).
Insiders put the picture's production cost in the $120-130 million range, comfortably less than some reports have had it and leaving no question that Spider-Man will be an enormously profitable venture for Columbia and its corporate parent Sony. Not only will the movie generate major profits for the studio, but so will the franchise that will result in years to come thanks to this first film's super success.
Spider-Man's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Directed by Sam Raimi, it stars Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris.
"There isn't a distribution record in film history that hasn't been shattered this weekend," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
"It's the biggest opening weekend--either three or four days. It's the biggest single day, which was our Saturday, which we're estimating at $43.7 million. It's the biggest single day by over $10 million, beating Harry Potter's Saturday of $33.5 million. It's the fastest to $100 million in three days (beating the five days it took Harry Potter). It's the highest per screen average in 3,000 prints or more with $31,535."
Looking at the weekend day by day, Blake said, "We estimate that it breaks out $39.3 million (for Friday), $43.7 million (for Saturday), up 11 percent, which I think is the most remarkable thing considering that we had the biggest day ever on Friday and we were up 11 percent on Saturday. And we're estimating $31 million for Sunday."
In terms of in-house records, Blake noted, "It more than doubles Columbia's biggest opening ever, which was Men in Black at $51 million."
Spider-Man ranks as the biggest opening in Hollywood history ever, he said, "Three days. Four days. Lost World's four days was $90 million. It doesn't matter (what comparisons you use)."
Reflecting on the film's unprecedented level of success, Blake pointed out, "It's the kind of coordinated worldwide marketing and distribution event that we've been working towards. It really can happen now. You can open a movie and make it an event around the world and maximize it immediately.
"The great news is it's not just a great record breaking North American event. We've already opened (in the Far East). It's the biggest opening ever in places like Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines and the second biggest opening ever in Korea and Taiwan. Japan opens next Saturday (May 11). This is truly a worldwide marketing and distribution event."
What he's proudest of, Blake added, "is that as all encompassing as the marketing and distribution was, in the end it was still about the movie. And it's a great movie. Spider-Man had universal appeal. It drew boys and girls, men and women, young and old. And the great news is, it delivered. We've got a definite recommend (exit poll score) for both younger males and older females in the eighties. That almost never happens. And we've had over 90 percent in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) straight across the board."
Where Spider-Man climbs to in terms of its ultimate domestic theatrical gross will depend on its repeat business. "We're already getting anecdotal stuff about kids seeing it time and time again," Blake observed. "I think the fact that it's an across the board appeal movie with heart and romance as well as dazzling special effects (works strongly in its favor). The chemistry between Tobey and Kirsten is just so wonderful, it really takes this kind of movie to a different level. Obviously, this is a level that nobody's ever seen before."
The $100 million weekend is, Blake said, "that mythical great white whale and I think anybody who does what we do has to be thrilled to see Spider-Man capture it. I can't give enough credit on the distribution side to Rory Bruer (president, domestic distribution) and his team for setting us up this way. And I can't give enough credit on the marketing side to Geoff Ammer (president, domestic marketing) for one of the best marketing campaigns I think anybody's ever put together and Josh Goldstine (senior executive vice president, creative advertising) for just amazing creative materials. And on the international side (also deserving credit are) Mark Zucker (senior executive vice president, worldwide distribution) and Nigel Clark (senior executive vice president, worldwide marketing)."
Beyond Spider-Man's own record setting success, Blake emphasized, "The other great news is that this sets up our summer. Almost 20 million people saw trailers this weekend (with Spider-Man) on Men in Black II, Mr. Deeds, XXX, Stuart Little 2 and Enough. Certainly, we're pleased with the execution of what was a pretty carefully thought out trailer plan. Our information is that almost all exhibitors played at least three and most played four of the above (trailers that Sony provided to be shown with Spider-Man)."
Distribution executives at other studios also applauded the success of Spider-Man, noting that blockbuster business is always good for the industry as a whole because moviegoers tend to come back to see other movies after they've had a good time seeing the big one that's just opened.
Universal's PG-13 rated adventure spinoff The Scorpion King in association with World Wrestling Federation Entertainment and Alphaville fell one rung to second place in its third week having been caught as expected Spider-Man's box office web. Scorpion bit off an ESTIMATED $9.6 million (-47%) at 3,466 theaters (+17 theaters; $2,770 per theater). Its cume is approximately $74.8 million, heading for $90-100 million in domestic theaters.
Paramount's R rated road rage drama Changing Lanes skidded down one lane to third place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $5.6 million (-38%) at 2,642 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,12015 per theater). Its cume is approximately $52.43 million, heading for $65-70 million.
Directed by Roger Michell, it stars Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson.
"I was particularly pleased with the Friday hold on the picture (down only about 35 percent)," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning.
"I think what's happening with Spider-Man is that it's obviously got good positive word of mouth. I think the older (over-25) audience, which would be the Changing Lanes crowd, is getting the feedback that this is a good movie and not just the popcorn movie that it looks to be."
Looking at the prospects for a strong summer season in general, Lewellen said, "There's no question (that it looks very promising). We say that always. You see the market expand when you get a constant diet of good movies in the marketplace. It goes back to if you put a movie in this so-called 'off play time,' it can still do tremendous business if it's what the public wants to see. The market simply expands to meet that demand."
Paramount has good prospects, itself, for ticket sales this summer with The Sum Of All Fears, its latest spy thriller based on a Tom Clancy book (in which Ben Affleck takes over Harrison Ford's role as Jack Ryan) arriving May 31 at about 3,000 theaters. July 19, Paramount opens K-19: The Widowmaker (an action adventure about a Soviet submarine struggling to keep its nuclear reactor from melting down, starring Harrison Ford) at about 2,500 theaters.
"And we have Hey, Arnold! coming the end of June, which is another of the Nickelodeon characters and they seem to do very well for us," Lewellen said. Based on the hit TV cartoon series, Arnold opens June 28 at 2,200 to 2,400 theaters.
Castle Rock Entertainment's Murder by Numbers held on to fourth place in its third week via Warner Bros. with an uneventful ESTIMATED $3.78 million (-41%) at 2,565 theaters (-98 theaters; $1,474 per theater). Its cume is approximately $24.0 million.
Directed by Barbet Schroeder, it stars Sandra Bullock.
Buena Vista/Disney's G rated family appeal baseball drama The Rookie, which was sixth last week, tied for fifth place in its sixth week with an okay ESTIMATED $3.3 million (-41%) at 2,351 theaters (-192 theaters; $1,404 per theater). Its cume is approximately $65.1 million.
Directed by John Lee Hancock, it stars Dennis Quaid.
20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises' PG-13 rated drama Life or Something Like It, which was fifth last week, tied for fifth place in its second week with a dull ESTIMATED $3.28 million (-47%) at 2,609 theaters (+3 theaters; $1,257 per theater). Its cume is approximately $11.0 million.
Directed by Stephen Herek, it stars Angelina Jolie and Edward Burns.
United Artists' R rated drama Deuces Wild opened via MGM in seventh place to a not so wild ESTIMATED $2.7 million at 1,480 theaters ($1,824 per theater).
Directed by Scott Kalvert, it stars Stephen Dorff, Brad Renfro and Fairuza Balk.
20th Century Fox's PG rated animated feature Ice Age fell one notch to eighth place in its eighth week, finally starting to melt with an ESTIMATED $2.51 million (-50%) at 2,137 theaters (-457 theaters; $1,172 per theater). Its cume is approximately $169.2 million, heading for $175 million or more in domestic theaters.
Directed by Chris Wedge, it features the voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary.
New Line Cinema's R rated horror genre sequel Jason X plunged six slots in its second week to ninth place with an anemic ESTIMATED $2.4 million (-64%) at 1,879 theaters (+1 theater; $1,277 per theater). Its cume is approximately $10.3 million.
Directed by Jim Isaac, it stars Kane Hodder.
Columbia's R rated thriller Panic Room, which was eighth last week, tied for tenth place in its sixth week with a restrained ESTIMATED $2.2 million (-48%) at 1,827 theaters (-636 theaters; $1,204 per theater). Its cume is approximately $91.1 million, on its way to $100 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by David Fincher, it stars Jodie Foster.
DreamWorks' opening of its PG-13 rated Woody Allen comedy Hollywood Ending tied for tenth place with a not so great beginning ESTIMATED at $2.2 million at 765 theaters ($2,870 per theater).
Written and directed by Woody Allen, it stars Allen, George Hamilton, Tea Leoni, Debra Messing, Mark Rydell and Treat Williams.
"Woody Allen movies have historically been review sensitive and certainly the critics were mixed in their views of this one," DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning. "Where the reviews are good, it actually did very well. It only did a little less than The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, which was the last one (from Allen and opened last August to) $2.5 million." The Curse of the Jade Scorpion went on to gross only about $8 million in domestic theaters.
"I think most people like the movie that go to see it," Tharp added. "Certainly, its (audience is) older and its female. So it really wasn't competing with Spider-Man."
This weekend saw the arrival of no other major releases.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend IFC Films' PG rated romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding expanded in its third week with a still happy ESTIMATED $0.7 million (-13%) at 152 theaters (+11 theaters; $4,600 per theater). Its cume is approximately $2.6 million.
Directed by Joel Zwick, it stars Nia Vardalos and John Corbett.
USA Films' R rated romantic comedy Monsoon Wedding added theaters in its 11th week with a less tasty ESTIMATED $0.66 million (-9%) at 254 theaters (+15 theaters; $2,585 per theater). Its cume is approximately $9.1 million.
Directed by Mira Nair, it was produced by Nair and Caroline Baron.
Lions Gate Films PG-13 rated comedy thriller The Cat's Meow expanded in its fourth week to a quiet ESTIMATED $0.34 million (-32%) at 153 theaters (+18 theaters; $2,245 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.3 million.
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, it stars Kirsten Dunst, Eddie Izzard, Edward Herrmann, Cary Elwes, Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Tilly.
Castle Rock Entertainment's R rated thriller The Salton Sea via Warner Bros. added a few theaters in its second week with an slow ESTIMATED $0.077 million (-53%) at 17 theaters (+2 theaters; $4,555 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.3 million.
Directed by D. J. Caruso, it stars Val Kilmer, Vincent D'Onofrio, Doug Hutchison and Peter Sarsgaard.
Universal's international division reported Sunday morning that About A Boy finished its first week in the U.K. in first place with a 33 percent share of the market. This weekend for two days its gross was $1.3 million on 445 playdates with a 30 percent market share, putting it 28 percent ahead of the U.K. opening of Panic Room. In nine days, About A Boy has grossed an outstanding $10 million.
The Scorpion King opened in four more countries this weekend, including France. Universal said it would not have box office details from France until Monday, but that it already knew the picture had opened well last Wednesday, grossing $307,000 on 334 playdates.
Looking at holdover business for The Scorpion King, the studio said it had a great day in Spain on Saturday, moving up to first place with $560,000 on 275 playdates. That was down only 12 percent from its opening weekend and slightly ahead of Blade 2 with $530,000.
In the U.K., The Scorpion King moved up one rung to fourth place with $508,000 on 383 playdates in its third weekend. Its 16-day cume is $5.5 million. In Germany, it grossed $820,000 on 662 playdates and held on to third place, following the opening of Blade 2 with $2.7 million and behind the third week of Panic Room with $845,000. Its ten day cume is $3.3 million.
In Brazil it grossed $390,000 on 199 playdates, holding on to first place in the face of openings by Count of Monte Cristo, Not Another Teen Movie, High Crimes and Behind the Sun. In Argentina The Scorpion King grossed $30,000 on 50 playdates and ranked second, just behind the opening of Time Machine with $33,000. In Mexico it grossed $480,000 on 300 playdates and was third behind the openings of Time Machine and La Habitacion Azil.
In Australia, The Scorpion King in its third weekend grossed $206,000 on 185 playdates, placing seventh. Its 17-day cume is $3 million. The Scorpion King's international cume passed $40 million this weekend with 10 countries still to open, including Japan on June 8.
Forty Days and Forty Nights moved into its second week in Australia, grossing $275,000 on 147 playdates. It ranked fifth with a cume of $1.3 million.
Big Fat Liar had its first international opening this weekend in Mexico. With a small release of 50 prints, its two day gross was $73,000.
Ali G Inda House, Universal's latest film from Working Title, had an excellent opening Thursday in The Netherlands. Its opening day gross of $66,000 on 50 playdates was equal to how American Pie 2 had opened there. Ali G is also in release in the U.K., where it has grossed a terrific $14.6 million.
Key films--those grossing more than $500,000-- ook in approximately $158.01 million, up about 51.08 percent from last year when they totaled $104.59 million. Key films this weekend were up about 96.53 percent from the previous weekend of this year's total of $80.4 million.
Last year, Universal's opening week of The Mummy Returns was first with $68.14 million at 3,401 theaters ($240,035 per theater); and Warner Bros. and Franchise Films' second week of Driven was second with $6.0 million at 2,905 theaters ($2,066 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $74.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $123.6 million.