Documentary filmmaker Saul Landau has died at the age of 77. The acclaimed moviemaker, best known for his films about Cuba, passed away at his home in California on Monday (09Sep13) after a battle with bladder cancer.
Landau made more than 40 films during his career and wrote a handful of books.
His documentaries included 1968 film Fidel, in which the director accompanied Cuban leader Fidel Castro on a week-long tour of the country, and 1980's Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang, which focused on the fallout from 1950s U.S. atomic bomb testing in Nevada.
It is hard to think of a movie with a more impeccable pedigree than Body of Lies (Warner Bros), set for wide release this Friday. Three-time Academy Award nominee Ridley Scott re-teams with Oscar winner Russell Crowe for the fourth time in the film adaptation of the David Ignatius bestselling novel adapted for the screen by William Monahan, the Oscar winning screenwriter of The Departed. Add to the mix Leonardo DiCaprio, with 3 Oscar nominations of his own, and you have a project with exceedingly bright commercial and artistic prospects.
My regular sources tell me that industry tracking is softer-than-expected for this one, and reviews, as of Wednesday night, are a bit mixed (63 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), but I will still put my money on Body of Lies to win the weekend. Four of Scott’s last seven films have topped $100M domestic--Gladiator ($187.7M cume), Hannibal ($165M cume), Black Hawk Down ($108.6M cume) and last year’s American Gangster starring Crowe ($130.1M cume). When Sir Ridley has missed of late, it has been with modern day character pieces like A Good Year starring Russell Crowe ($7.5M cume) and Matchstick Men ($36.9M cume) and his stab second stab at a “sword and sandals” epic Kingdom of Heaven ($47.3M cume). The fact is that Scott is the best when it comes to smart, adult action films.
The undertow working against Body of Lies is that audiences seem deterred by any movie related to the war on terror. Critical disasters on the subject like Lions For Lambs ($15M cume) and Rendition ($9.7M cume) have failed, and even very good films like In the Valley of Elah ($6.7M cume) and The Kingdom ($47.4M cume) deserved better box office results. DiCaprio is 10 years Russell Crowe’s junior, and with recent quality hits like The Departed ($132.3M cume) and The Aviator ($102.6M cume) on his resume along with his Oscar nominated turn in Blood Diamond ($57.3M cume), he brings some much needed youth appeal. I am projecting a possible $16M-$19M for this one, and if you pin me down, I will say $17.5M.
Last week’s winner, Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Disney) will essentially have the family audience to itself again this week. The live action, talking dog comedy with Latino flavor is hitting “the sweet spot” with audiences attracting Under 25’s, Moms and pre-teens, and its weekend dip will be limited to something in the 45 percent range. That would give Chihuahua a very strong $16.6M second weekend.
The Express (Universal), the story of Ernie Davis, the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy, is tracking decently enough. Harlem-born, Brooklyn-raised former Amherst College football player-turned-actor Rob Brown plays the former Syracuse Orangemen star and sports movie veteran Dennis Quaid plays his coach Ben Schwartzwaider. Early reviews are coming in very strong with a score of 83 percent Fresh as of Wednesday night.
Football movies generally open in the mid-teens in the late summer and fall. 2006’s Mark Wahlberg vehicle Invincible scored $17M in its first three days, while Dwayne Johnson’s Gridiron Gang managed a $14.4M opening a few weeks later. It does not appear that The Express has enough traction to match the $20M+ openings for 2000’s Remember the Titans or 2004’s Friday Night Lights. I am pegging this biopic for a possible $14.1M.
There is generally room for an R-rated horror flick at this time of year, and Sony’s Quarantine fits the bill. A rare strain of rabies in a confined apartment building with lots of shaky camera work and plenty of screaming courtesy of Exorcism of Emily Rose star Jennifer Carpenter, and you probably have a decent, little low budget hit. This one could scare up $11.5M or so and a possible fourth-place finish.
The strong-holding Shia LaBeouf thriller Eagle Eye (Dreamworks/Paramount) is likely to spend another week in the top five. The DJ Caruso-directed blockbuster may bank as much as $10M more, staying on target for something north of $90M domestic. That would mean just a 45 percent drop from its strong 2nd weekend.
The lushly-appointed Saul Bibb period costume drama The Duchess (Paramount Vantage) starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes is poised for a nice expansion to about 1,100 playdates. With strong reviews and a heap of female appeal, this look at 18th-century fame may grab close to $6M.
The other wide release is the Walden Media and Playtone co-production of City of Ember being distributed by Fox. The Playtone name means that Tom Hanks is the producer, but this one will not necessarily appear near the top of his resume. There is a lot of talent in the cast including Oscar nominees Bill Murray, Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) and Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Secrets & Lies) and Oscar winners Tim Robbins and Martin Landau (Ed Wood), but the movie has been barely screened for critics (if at all). This fantastical family film is unlikely to crack $5M and probably has a ceiling of $3.5M.
FINAL PREDICTIONS FOR THE WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 10
1. NEW – Body of Lies (Warner Bros) - $17.5M
2. Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Disney) - $16.6M
3. NEW – The Express (Universal) - $14.1M
4. NEW – Quarantine (Sony) - $11.5M
5. Eagle Eye (Dreamworks/Paramount) - $10M
6. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Sony) - $6.1M
7. The Duchess (Paramount Vantage) - $5.9M
8. Nights in Rodanthe (Warner Bros) - $3.9M
9. NEW – City of Ember (Fox) - $3.5M
10. Appaloosa (Warner Bros) - $3M
*Religulous (Lionsgate) - $2.1M
*Fireproof (IDP Films/Samuel Goldwyn) - $2M
*American Carol (Vivendi) - $1.75M
*Flash of Genius (Universal) - $1.3M