Dr. Leonard Schiller (Frank Langella) is a novelist and retired college professor whose body of work includes a novel many critics considered a great classic when published decades ago. But that was then this is now as Schiller struggles to finish his latest novel one that has so far taken him 10 years to write. Into his life comes Heather (Lauren Ambrose) a brash college student who is writing her thesis on Schiller and his work. She’s a pretty beguiling thing filled with ambition and drive; and those are exactly the things that Schiller has somehow lost along the way. As the two of them form an uneasy relationship with Schiller’s daughter (Lili Taylor) as a third part of this emotionally repressed triangle the story unfolds with twists and turns. The finale reminds us that no matter how old we are if we want to do something artistic then even Starting Out in the Evening of our lives is better than never getting going at all. Langella’s stellar performance is at the heart of this quietly affecting film. He plays Schiller as an insulated emotionally bereft artist whose life spark died the moment he lost his wife (decades before) in a car crash. He’s never had the passion to write to the level he did before she died; nor has he had passion for much of anything else including his daughter until Heather shows up at his door and insists he begin to feel life again. Ambrose (of Six Feet Under fame) is perfectly cast as the young woman who hero-worships this much-older man and who brings him back into a passion for living by her mere presence. Their story is real and affecting as is the subplot of Schiller’s daughter whose life is passing her by much as her father’s. By the time the film ends both father and daughter have had life-altering experiences due to the catalyst created by this stranger in their midst--and both are the better for it. With Starting Out in the Evening director Andrew Wagner has fashioned a subtle quiet vision of Brian Morton’s award-winning novel of the same name. He certainly seems to understand the inherent pressure of having a youthful success in the arts. What does one do next after giving the world a masterpiece while still in an early part of one’s life? For his main character that struggle and question have become overwhelming with the result being his shutting down to any of life’s more joyous or emotional experiences. There’s a lot going on under the surface of this film a directing technique Wagner may have absorbed from his famous uncle Mark Rydell who directed On Golden Pond a picture with some similar themes. The downside to Wagner’s technique is in his pacing for there are moments where the movie moves so slowly it is hard not to be bored. But by the final frames there is an emotional resonance to the story that cannot be ignored especially if the viewer is someone who aspires to excel in any of the world’s creative disciplines. This makes Starting Out in the Evening a worthwhile experience for nascent writers artists musicians etc. And a warning as well: to pace yourself for the duration of your life rather than explode on the scene with nothing left to give once an impression has been made.
Part Mean Girls part Heathers—hell there’s even a little bit of Hilary Duff’s ridiculously stupid The Perfect Man thrown in there—John Tucker Must Die fits the genre nicely. But the word “die” is a little harsh. Actually when three high school girls—wannabe journalist Carrie (Arielle Kebbel) head cheerleader Heather (Ashanti) and vegan activist Beth (Sophia Bush)—find out they are all dating the delectable John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe) the school’s basketball star they decide to get even. After several embarrassing tactics backfire the girls come up with the perfect idea. They’ll recruit pretty but anonymous new kid Kate (Brittany Snow) doll her up and get Tuck to fall in love with her so she can ceremoniously dump him. Wow I can’t see anything going wrong with that plan. Not at all. Talk about some pretty people John Tucker has got them in spades starting off with the insanely handsome Metcalfe who literally had women weak in the knees as the hot gardener who woos Desperate Housewives’ Eva Longoria. It’s not a big stretch to see him as the sexy Tuck the most popular er player in school. Then there’s the trio of revengeful hotties: tall lean and blonde Kebbel (Aquamarine) as the “smart” girl; curvy singer/actress Ashanti (Coach Carter) as the bring-it-on “cheerleader”; and luscious and exotic Bush (TV’s One Tree Hill) as the “experienced” one. But really its the perky Snow’s (The Pacifier) show effectively playing the “invisible” girl no one knows or even cares to know who moves around a lot whenever her mother (Jenny McCarthy in a nice bit part) breaks up with a “John Tucker” herself. What’s wrong with these single moms dragging their daughters all over the place after their hearts get broken? Betty Thomas best known for her turn as Sgt. Lucy Bates on Hill Street Blues doesn’t have the best track record in town as a director (I Spy is hers for example). But she’s helmed enough passable comedies (The Brady Bunch Movie Dr. Dolittle) to grant her admittance into the club. Problem here is Thomas isn’t teamed up with a sharp writer like Saturday Night Live alum Tina Fey whose Mean Girls script simply zings. John Tucker is pretty standard fare taking bits and pieces from the already established high-school formula. Still the coveted teen market will more than likely enjoy all the antics in the film—especially the whole “thong” bit in which Tuck caught wearing a thong in one of the girls’ schemes makes it cool for guys everywhere to wear thongs. Yeah you get the picture.
Blade 2 was a slashing success at the box office, opening in first place to a razor sharp $33.1 million.
Ice Age slid into second place with a still solid $31.1 million, melting only 33 percent. E.T.'s 20th anniversary reissue opened in third place, celebrating with $15.1 million. Also helping to drive ticket sales to record setting heights were holdovers Showtime with $8.2 million and Resident Evil with $6.6 million.
For the second consecutive weekend, key films--those grossing $500,000 or more--enjoyed summer sized grosses. Studio estimates put ticket sales at $132.7 million, down less than one percent from last weekend's $133.8 million. Business was up nearly 75 percent from last year's $76 million.
Distribution sources said that when the weekend's final numbers are released Monday they could be lower than today's estimates because of competition from tonight's Oscar telecast. Adult appeal films, in particular, are considered to be the most vulnerable to competition from the Oscars.
For years the industry avoided having a negative impact at the box office by holding the Oscars on Monday night, the weakest night of the weak for ticket sales. Last year, the Oscars were moved to Sunday night. A key reason for the move was to take advantage of there being less traffic in Los Angeles on Sundays so those attending could get to the ceremonies more easily.
THE TOP TEN
New Line Cinema's R rated vampire thriller Blade 2 kicked off in first place to a bloody good ESTIMATED $33.1 million at 2,707 theaters ($12,228 per theater).
Blade 2's average per theater was the highest for any film playing this weekend.
Directed by Guillermo Del Toro, it stars Wesley Snipes.
"It could be heading to $100 million," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning.
"This was just terrific. It's Wesley's biggest opening and it almost doubled the first Blade's opening (of $17.1 million the weekend of Aug. 21-23, 1998)."
Looking at the opening weekend demographics, Tuckerman said exit polls showed were encouraging because they showed the urban appeal film played to a broader audience than expected. Those on hand were 69 percent non-African-American and 31 percent African-American.
"Non-African-Americans were 55 percent male and 45 percent female, which also is terrific," Tuckerman said. "The African-American audience was equally divided 50-50 (by gender). By age (the overall audience) was equally divided under and over 25."
Looking at New Line's timing in releasing the film now, Tuckerman observed, "One of the reasons I picked this date was because (in terms of upcoming openings) there was only Panic Room, which is not in our demo at all. It looks to me like there's four weeks for it to play without anything to bother it. And it looks like we're going to play for a while."
20th Century Fox's PG rated animated feature Ice Age fell one slot to second place in its second weekend, holding strongly with an ESTIMATED $31.08 million (-33%) at 3,345 theaters (+29 theaters; $9,291 per theater). Its cume is approximately $88.3 million.
Directed by Chris Wedge, it features the voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary.
"You know, if we had opened to this figure we would have been ecstatic," Fox distribution executive vice president and general sales manager Rick Myerson said Sunday morning.
"We have about 12 digital runs in North America. The presentation in digital is phenomenal because this was computer generated digitally. People are waiting for the next digital presentation at some of those theaters. What they're saying is, 'Look, I know there's one in 15 minutes, but I'd rather wait a half-hour and see the (next) digital presentation."
Noting that Ice Age is also playing abroad now, Myerson said, "The international market is unbelievable. (Based on early grosses coming in) they may have done $30 million internationally and they have only opened up the U.K., Germany and one other European country plus Singapore and a few South American (territories) and Mexico. But the numbers are just unbelievable.
"It's mirroring what we're doing. The numbers in Germany, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico and (other markets) are bigger than Shrek and Dinosaur combined, which were huge. It seems like the picture is just coming along with us (in paralleling its domestic success). The admissions they had in Mexico in 10 days were unheard of. If you take a bunch of animated pictures and put them together, (Ice Age is) doing better in those first 10 days. It's just phenomenal."
Universal's 20th year anniversary reissue of its PG rated sci-fi fantasy drama E.T. landed in third place with a happy ESTIMATED $15.05 million at 3,007 theaters ($5,005 per theater).
Directed by Steven Spielberg, it stars Dee Wallace Stone, Peter Coyote, Drew Barrymore and Henry Thomas.
"We're very pleased with E.T.'s performance," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "The whole idea of the reissue was to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a film that we at Universal and at Amblin are all very proud of.
"Its performance is very much like any Disney animated reissue, if you look at the numbers. It ranks number four in all time reissue openings behind the three Star Wars and that's good company to be in. There's every indication that the audiences that did go to see it absolutely adored the film, including the non-parents category."
Among non-family moviegoers, Rocco noted, "ratings were well above average among 25 year olds and over. They were also, of course, incredible for kids and for parents. But I highlight that category because it's interesting. You don't have to be parent or a kid to enjoy the experience of E.T."
Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated action comedy Showtime from Village Roadshow Pictures and NPV Entertainment slipped one peg to fourth place in its second week with an okay ESTIMATED $8.23 million (-45%) at 2,917 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,821 per theater). Its cume is approximately $26.9 million.
Directed by Tom Dey, it stars Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy and Rene Russo.
Sony's Screen Gems label launched its R rated thriller Resident Evil from Constantin Film, New Legacy Film and Davis Films dropped three notches to fifth place in its second week with a less scary ESTIMATED $6.6 million (-63%) at 2,528 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,611 per theater). Its cume is approximately $28.8 million.
Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, it stars Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez and Eric Mabius.
Resident Evil, which was made by Constantin for about $30 million, is being released through Sony domestically and in certain international territories, including all of Latin America.
"I think we're headed towards a very profitable $40 million (in domestic theaters)," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "It's the nature of the genre and the world we now live in (in terms of the highly competitive movie marketplace) that things drop a bit more than we'd like--not to mention some pretty strong competition from Blade 2."
Paramount and Icon Productions' R rated Vietnam war drama We Were Soldiers fell one rung to sixth place in its fourth week with a slower ESTIMATED $5.8 million (-32%) at 2,859 theaters (-284 theaters; $2,029 per theater). Its cume is approximately $61.7 million, heading for $80-90 million in domestic theaters.
Written and directed by Randall Wallace, it stars Mel Gibson.
DreamWorks and Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated time travel fantasy drama The Time Machine fell three pegs to seventh place in its third week with a quieter ESTIMATED $5.2 million (-52%) at 2,809 theaters (-149 theaters; $1,851 per theater). Its cume is approximately $48.0 million. The film is being released domestically by DreamWorks and internationally by Warner Bros., which co-financed its production.
Directed by Simon Wells, it stars Guy Pearce.
Universal, DreamWorks and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13 rated drama A Beautiful Mind--which has eight Oscar nominations including best picture--rose one notch to eighth place in its 14th week, still holding very well with an ESTIMATED $4.26 million (+26%) at 1,455 theaters (-78 theaters; $2,930 per theater). Its cume is approximately $154.9 million. How far it goes from here will depend on how well it does in tonight's Oscar race.
Directed by Ron Howard, the Brian Grazer production stars Russell Crowe, Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's R rated youth comedy Sorority Boys opened in a virtual tie for eighth place with an unfunny ESTIMATED $4.2 million at 1,801 theaters ($2,317 per theater).
Directed by Wally Wolodarsky, it stars Barry Watson.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Miramax and Universal's R rated romantic comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights, down three slots in its fourth week with a dull ESTIMATED $2.72 million (-38%) at 1,831 theaters (-481 theaters; $1,487 per theater). Its cume is approximately $34.2 million.
Directed by Michael Lehmann, it stars Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Miramax's PG rated drama Stolen Summer--famous for having been featured in HBO's Project Greenlight series--to a slow ESTIMATED $0.062 million at 13 theaters ($4,769 per theater).
Written and directed by Pete Jones, it stars Aidan Quinn, Bonnie Hunt, Kevin Pollak and Brian Dennehy.
Sony Pictures Classics' R rated comedy Son of the Bride opened to a hopeful ESTIMATED $0.037 million at 6 theaters ($6,098 per theater).
Directed by Joan Jose Campanella, the film is Argentina's official entry in the Oscars and a nominee for best foreign language film.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend USA Films' R rated romantic comedy Monsoon Wedding added theaters in its fifth week with a still festive ESTIMATED $0.81 million (+4%) at 128 theaters (+30 theaters; $6,310 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.3 million.
Directed by Mira Nair, it was produced by Nair and Caroline Baron.
Fox Searchlight Pictures' R rated romantic comedy Kissing Jessica Stein expanded in its second week to a still sexy ESTIMATED $0.55 million at 66 theaters (+40 theaters; $8,300 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.1 million.
Directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, it stars Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen.
"This Friday we're adding another 19 cities and we'll go up to over 30 theaters," Fox Searchlight distribution president Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning.
Focusing on Kissing Jessica Stein's performance this weekend, Gilula said, "It's terrific. The holdover theaters declined less than 10 percent and we continued to move into more regional cities where the film is performing extremely well. So we're seeing evidence of very, very strong word of mouth in a wide range of cities and theaters. It's crossing over into a broader and broader audience. So we're quite pleased about that."
IFC Films' unrated erotic drama Y Tu Mama Tambien went wider in its second week with a still hot ESTIMATED $0.46 million at 52 theaters (+10 theaters; $8,785 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.1 million.
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, it stars Maribel Verdu, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna.
Universal's international division reported Sunday that Ali G Inda House, its latest film from Working Title, opened in first place in the U.K. to a terrific $2.9 million for two days on 394 playdates. Ali G Inda House is 69 percent ahead of the second place Ice Age and has 32 percent of the marketplace.
Spy Game in its second weekend in Germany grossed $0.82 million on 634 playdates, ranking third behind the openings of Ice Age and Resident Evil. A Beautiful Mind was sixth with $0.6 million on 350 playdates.
In Austria, Spy Game grossed $0.1 million on 63 playdates in its second weekend, coming in second to the opening of Ice Age. Spy Game's international cume is $71 million.
A Beautiful Mind, a Universal DreamWorks co-production that is being distributed by UIP for DreamWorks, continued to hold very well internationally. In Australia A Beautiful Mind was second with $0.91 million on 220 playdates, down only 18 percent and only behind the opening of Ice Age. In the U.K., A Beautiful Mind grossed $0.5 million on 350 playdates, down 27% and fourth in the marketplace in its fifth week.
In Spain, A Beautiful Mind was fourth in its fifth week, grossing $0.3 million for two days on 200 playdates, down 25%. In Argentina, A Beautiful Mind in its fifth week took over the top spot on the chart again with a weekend gross of $95,000 on 46 playdates, down only 9 percent. In Brazil, A Beautiful Mind finished third in its sixth weekend With $0.22 million on 163 playdates, down only 7 percent. In Mexico A Beautiful Mind was fifth in its fourth week, with $0.34 million on 170 playdates, down only 10 percent. A Beautiful Mind's international cume is $64 million.
Key films--those grossing more than $500,000--took in approximately $132.66 million, up about 74.74 percent from last year when they totaled $75.92 million. Key films this weekend were down a marginal 0.33 percent from the previous weekend of this year's total of $133.81 million.
Last year, MGM's opening week of Heartbreakers was first with $11.8 million at 2,750 theaters ($4,291 per theater); and Sony's opening week of The Brothers was second with $10.3 million at 1,378 theaters ($7,477 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $22.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $64.2 million.