Having recently moved to England from America with his large family young Will Stanton (Alexander Ludwig) is finding it difficult to adapt. But it isn’t so much the culture shock or calling his mom “mum” that’s giving him trouble—it’s the fact that he is a warrior and doesn’t yet know it. He is tipped off to the weirdness after witnessing two policemen hot on his trail for purchasing what he thought was a pendant for his sister (Emma Lockhart) morph into black crows. That pendant turns out to be one of six crucial “signs” in need of finding and Will turns out to be the last of the Old Ones fit for the job—as he is informed by fellow Old Ones Merriman Lyon (Ian McShane) and Miss Greythorne (Frances Conroy). Will’s success is mankind’s only hope of warding off the evil Dark whose goal is to defeat the Light and steal their free will; it’s your classic battle of Dark vs. Light. With each passing day Will becomes more adept at sensing new signs but he only has five days to do so before the nefarious Rider’s (Christopher Eccleston) skills reach their peak which will be bad news for everyone. If there were never a Daniel Radcliffe by whom all fantasy-protagonist performances are now measured youngster Alexander Ludwig (of The Sandlot 3 fame) might not seem so stiff—fine inept. But in The Seeker Ludwig struggles with the already tenuous special-effects sequences let alone with trying to carry the movie to franchise-dom. While it’s rare to find the young actor whose charisma trumps his inexperience—a la Radcliffe or even Macaulay Culkin circa 1990—Ludwig comes off more like a kid in a candy store than on a movie set and no editing-room fixes can help. Elsewhere the actors’ stakes are lower and the results mixed. McShane utterly incapable of a bad performance is leaps and bounds above all of his numerous costars. It’s too bad the former Deadwood actor starring as the most vocal of the Old Ones didn’t rub off on any of his younger costars; it’s also too bad he accepted a role well beneath him much like August’s Hot Rod was. McShane’s fellow Old One and HBO casualty Conroy (Six Feet Under) shares a similar venerability but she ditches it the second she wields a sword in a vain attempt to go medieval on our collective heiny. We could’ve used more of Eccleston (28 Days Later) as his wry alter-ego doctor but he spends most of his scenes obscured as the villainous Rider. In most modern fantasy flicks the grand-scale action scenes are where the magic’s at with their bank-breaking special effects and/or productions; in The Seeker such scenes expose the movie as a thrift-shop version of its more deep-pocketed genre brethren (i.e. Narnia Potter Lord of the Rings). It’s not only that the look of the action is less imaginative but also its conception: Each time Will must retrieve one of the signs there is seemingly no difficulty in doing so and thus zero suspense—like a bad video game. That could be because director David L. Cunningham (TV movie The Path to 9/11) seemingly wants the movie to play out like a video game instead of like Susan Cooper’s beloved novel The Dark Is Rising whose story was somewhat tweaked by screenwriter John Hodge (Trainspotting). On the bright side the lush snow-covered English village in which the movie is set is rich and evocative. In fact everything looks great and will keep viewers’ attention throughout the early part of The Seeker. But unlike its aforementioned contemporaries the movie takes a nosedive when it’s supposed to most enthrall us.
November 27, 2001 1:19pm EST
Dramatic and documentary film competition finalists for the 2002 Sundance Film Festival were announced Monday, with new and more seasoned artists making the list. Next year's festival in Park City, Utah, though, is marked by several changes.
Sundance organizers have decided to split its non-competitive American Spectrum into two categories to differentiate between lower budget films and higher profile films with better-known actors. While American Spectrum will still feature smaller films like Blue Car, a first feature by Karen Moncrief, the new American Showcase category will highlight films from veteran indie filmmakers, like Thirteen Conversations About One Thing starring Matthew McConaughey and John Turturro.
The upcoming festival was also bumped up a week to accommodate the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and will run from Jan. 10-20. Festival artistic director Geoffrey Gilmore told Variety that security matters, a major concern for the Olympics, are being addressed.
"We will definitely have added security in place. There will be bag checks, metal detectors and other measures. We're working very closely with Olympics security officials, the state and federal agencies, and I know we'll have enough security. On the other hand, we've tried not to overreact," Gilmore explained.
There is also a chance that the primary home of the documentary competition--the old Holiday Cinema triplex--will not be ready in time for the festival, which would require a change in venue.
What has remained unchanged at Sundance is the diversity.
The 16 films in the drama grouping include Bark, a dark comedy about a woman who believes she is a dog starring Lisa Kudrow and Hank Azaria; Peter Mattei's first feature The End of Love starring Steve Buscemi, Rosario Dawson, and Jill Hennessy; Pumpkin, an anti-P.C. satire with Christina Ricci, Brenda Blethyn and Dominique Swain; and the digitally shot Personal Velocity starring Kyra Sedgwick, Parker Posey and Fairuza Balk.
Documentaries featured include American Standoff, an examination of the crisis in the American labor movement as seen through the stories of three rank-and-file Teamsters; How to Draw a Bunny, a revelation of the life, career and death of Andy Warhol and Ray Johnson; and Sister Helen about a woman who became a Benedictine nun after the death of her husband and two sons, and opened a center for recovering alcoholics in the South Bronx.
Entries in the Premieres, World Cinema, Frontier, Midnight and other categories will be announced Tuesday, Variety reports.
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Three films should enjoy heaping portions of box office pie over a five-day Thanksgiving period in which the marketplace expands to $240 million or more.
Which movie carves itself the biggest slice of holiday business remains to be seen, but insiders say the happy chart-topping trio will be Universal and Imagine Entertainment's "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," last weekend's Number One film, and Buena Vista's two openings -- Disney's "102 Dalmatians" and Touchstone's "Unbreakable."
Also likely to be well fed at the holiday box office buffet are two holdovers -- Paramount and Nickelodeon's "Rugrats In Paris" and Columbia's "Charlie's Angels."
After kicking off to $55.1 million last weekend, the PG-rated comedy adventure "Grinch" should have $70 million as it goes into this weekend at 3,134 theaters (up 7 runs from last week). It should have $100 million under its box office belt by the time Thanksgiving weekend is over.
"$30 million is very doable on 'Grinch' for the three days," an insider comments.
Directed by Ron Howard and produced by Brian Grazer, "Grinch" stars Jim Carrey.
"Nobody knows who's going to be one, two or three," a distributor insists. "Not one person I've spoken to can make that prediction. They just don't know. It's 'Grinch,' 'Dalmatians' or 'Unbreakable.'"
If "Grinch" falls only 30% over the three-day weekend portion of the holiday period, it will do about $38.5 million. A 40% drop, however, would put it at about $33 million for three days.
"I'm not expecting 'Grinch' to be Number One because I can't imagine that one of them -- 'Dalmatians' or 'Unbreakable' -- is not going to do $35-$40 million," says a studio source. "'Grinch' has to be off from the heat of opening weekend."
"Dalmatians," a live-action, G-rated sequel, arrives today (November 22) at 2,704 theaters. "I feel that it's a Disney film and it will be gangbusters," an insider predicts.
Directed by Kevin Lima, "Dalmatians" stars Glenn Close and Gerard Depardieu.
"Unbreakable," a PG-13-rated supernatural thriller, also opens today (November 22) at 2,708 theaters. The film is flying high on Hollywood's radar screens because it reteams the director and star of Touchstone's blockbuster "The Sixth Sense."
"Those are the three films that will be number one, two and three," a studio source points out. "In what order? Only the movie gods know."
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, "Unbreakable" stars Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson.
As for the five-day Thanksgiving period, says one executive, "I think it's going to be a tremendous weekend. I think you're looking at somewhere between $240-250 million." That would set a new record for the extended Thanksgiving holiday, breaking the 1999 record of $219 million by about 10% to 15%. (For details of Thanksgiving grosses over the past decade, see below.)
Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies' G-rated animated sequel "Rugrats in Paris: The Movie" was a colorful Number Two last weekend with $22.7 million. It will be at 2,937 theaters (up 3 runs from last week) and should benefit from favorable word of mouth. Insiders believe it was the second choice film for family audiences last weekend and now that so many people have already seen "Grinch," "Rugrats" could be next on their list.
If there were no "Dalmatians," "Rugrats" would be a safe bet to finish third, but with "Dalmatians" a very real factor in the marketplace, the animated sequel should be fourth.
"Word of mouth is good on 'Rugrats,' so maybe they won't take too bad a hit from 'Dalmatians,'" an insider speculates. "But if 'Dalmatians' is huge, then 'Rugrats' is going to get hurt."
Directed by Stig Bergqvist and Paul Demeyer, it was produced by Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo.
Columbia's PG-13-rated action adventure comedy "Charlie's Angels" should round out the Top Five in its fourth weekend. With a cume of over $94 million at mid-week, it's on track to hit $100 million well before Thanksgiving weekend ends. "Angels" will be in 2,838 theaters, 199 runs less than last week.
Sony, Columbia's corporate parent, is launching "Angels" in 27 international territories this weekend to capitalize on the global media heat stemming from its strong performance in the U.S. and Canada. "Angels" will go into such key markets as Australia, the U.K., Italy, Sweden, Korea and various countries in South America. It has already opened to very big business in Japan and Mexico. Given "Angels" domestic theatrical success and its likely strength abroad, it could wind up as a $300 million worldwide blockbuster for Sony Pictures.
Directed by McG, "Angels" stars Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Bill Murray.
Phoenix Pictures' PG-13-rated sci-fi action adventure "The 6th Day," a Columbia release, should drop out of the Top Five after opening in fourth place last weekend to a disappointing $13 million. "Day" will be in 2,516 theaters, the same number as last week.
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, "Day" stars Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Also departing the Top Five should be Miramax's PG-13-rated romantic drama "Bounce," which finished fifth last week with a hopeful $11.4 million. "Bounce" will add 96 runs in its second weekend, going from 1,918 to 2,014 theaters.
"Bounce" should benefit from being the only new film in the marketplace targeted specifically to women. Miramax said under-25 women were on hand to see it last weekend, but women 25 and older were less well represented because they were taking their children to see "Grinch." This group of adult women could be more available after Thanksgiving to go to a film that they want to see, themselves; if so, "Bounce" could enjoy a box office bounce.
Written and directed by Don Roos, it stars Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Filling out lower rungs: "Men Of Honor," "Meet the Parents" and "The Legend of Bagger Vance."
On the limited release front, Fox Searchlight Pictures will open its R-rated drama "Quills" at 9 theaters in major markets.
Directed by Philip Kaufman, it stars Geoffrey Rush and Kate Winslet.
On the expansion front, Paramount Classics' R-rated drama "You Can Count On Me" will widen to 53 theaters, up 18 from last week.
Directed by Kenneth Lonergan, it stars Laura Linney.
THANKSGIVING BOX OFFICE HISTORY
Looking back over the last decade indicates that Buena Vista has had the Number One film over Thanksgiving weekend for the past six years. In terms of the overall marketplace, Thanksgiving has grown considerably -- from only about $112 million in 1990 to nearly $219 million in 1999 and a projected $240-250 million this year.
Last Thanksgiving, key films -- those grossing $500,000 or more for five days -- took in $218.9 million.
Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar's animated sequel "Toy Story 2" led last year's pack with $80.1 million. MGM/UA's James Bond sequel "The World Is Not Enough" was second with $34 million. Universal's Arnold Schwarzenegger epic "End of Days" opened in third place to $31.5 million. Paramount's "Sleepy Hollow" from director Tim Burton was fourth with $26.9 million. Warner Bros.' animated "Pokemon" rounded out the Top Five with $9.1 million. In 1998, key films grossed $176.9 million, led by Buena Vista's "A Bug's Life" with $45.7 million.
In 1997, key films took in $147.2 million, led by Buena Vista's "Flubber" with $35.9 million.
In 1996, key films did $146.5 million, led by Buena Vista's "101 Dalmatians" with $45.1 million.
In 1995, key films collected $154.3 million, led by Buena Vista's "Toy Story" with $39.1 million.
In 1994, key films earned $134.8 million, led by Buena Vista's "The Santa Clause" with $27.4 million.
In 1993, key films grossed $106.8 million, led by 20th Century Fox's "Mrs. Doubtfire" with $27.6 million.
In 1992, key films took in $134.2 million, led by 20th Century Fox's "Home Alone 2: Lost In New York" with $39.0 million.
In 1991, key films did $97.7 million, led by Paramount's "The Addams Family" with $27.8 million.
In 1990, key films took in $111.7 million, led by 20th Century Fox's "Home Alone" with $28.7 million.