British comedy stars including Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Adrian Edmondson turned out to remember funnyman Rik Mayall as he was laid to rest on Thursday (19Jun14). Around 140 mourners gathered at St George's Church in the village of Dittisham in Devon, England for the funeral of the beloved performer, who died aged 56 on 9 June (14).
Among the congregation were French and Saunders, who landed their big break alongside Mayall in 1980s TV sketch series The Comic Strip Presents..., and comedienne Ruby Wax.
Nigel Palmer, who starred in U.K. sitcom The Young Ones with the late actor, was also in attendance, while Mayall's longtime comedy partner and friend Edmondson was among the pallbearers who carried the wicker coffin adorned with red flowers into the church.
Before the funeral, Mayall's widow Barbara Robbins thanked fans for their support, saying, "We would like to let you, the fans, know that we will be having a private family funeral for Rik, as I am sure you will understand.
"Thank you again for all your love and support to all our family, it brings great strength."
A public memorial service for Mayall is scheduled for September (14).
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
As grand as the themes of good and evil, needs and deservings, power and responsibility and such forth are, superhero movies are generally pretty straightforward in premise: hero stops villain from wreaking havoc. As off-putting as this kind of simplicity might sound, it's usually the right way to go. If you pack enough substance into your characters and adhere your plot to these linear margins, you can actually wind up saying a healthy amount (and having a lot of fun). The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets half of this formula down pat. Although Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker is still a moreover undistinguished identity, his emotional magnitude (re: his relationship with Gwen Stacy) is enough to keep him valid through the storm of lunacy that is his second feature. And it's not even that lunacy that holds him back. The problem isn't how wild his conquests are, how silly some of the action sequences feel, or how absolutely bonkers his villains turn out to be. It's all the other stuff (and yes, if you can believe it, there's a ton more going on in this movie than what I've already mentioned — that's the issue). All the plot twists, tertiary mysteries, ominous flashbacks, abject reveals, and weightlessly sinister pawns in this brooding game that, save for its fun with the baddies, takes itself way too seriously. All that stuff that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 thinks is necessary to make Peter Parker matter? It actually does just the opposite.
Peter is at his best when he's playing Tracy and Hepburn with the girlfriend he's perpetually disappointing (the eternally charming Emma Stone), or trying to win back the favor of the only remaining parental figure from whom he's rapidly slipping away (Sally Field, reminding us why she's a household name), or angling to connect with the mentally unstable engineer who just wants people to notice him (Jamie Foxx working his comic shtick with a frightening zest). We have the most fun with Peter when he's playing the simplest games, and we connect best with him on similar ground. But Peter and company, at the behest of The Amazing Spider-Man franchise's Sandman-sized aspirations, spend so much time exploring new avenues: the secrets surrounding the death and work of Richard Parker, the behind-the-curtains operations of OsCorp, the nefarious goings on in the waterside penitentiary Ravencroft.
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
As a result of the grand stab at world building, there is just so much stuff that Peter has to wade through in this movie, dragging the likes of Gwen and his boyhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, mastering angst, menace, and upper-class privilege all at once) into the dark crevasses of narrative waste. With so many diversions into the emotionally vacant, deliberately joyless explorations of Parker family origin stories, secret brief cases, and underground subways — The Amazing Spider-Man 2 rivals Captain America: The Winter Soldier in complexity, but forgets the necessary ingredient of fun — we barely have enough energy left when the good stuff hits.
And in truth, the good stuff isn't really good enough to sustain us through all the duller periods. Garfield and Stone do have laudable chemistry. Foxx is a hoot as Peter's maniacal new foe, especially when paired with the grimacing DeHaan. And the action, while often straying from any aesthetic authenticity, is nothing shy of neat-o. It's all passable, occasionally worthy of a hearty smile, but rarely anything you'll be definitively pleased you took the time to see.
But beyond coming up short in the micro, the film's regal downfall is its scope. With so much to do, both in accomplishing its own necessary plot points and setting up for those to come in future films, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn't seem to take time to make sure it's having fun with its own premise. And if it isn't having fun, we won't be either.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Fancy another shag, baby?
The horniest of all secret agents springs into action for the third time in Austin Powers in Goldmember, which should jolt the box office back to life after two less-than-shagadelic weekends.
This spoof of the James Bond classic Goldfinger pits Powers against nemesis Dr. Evil and his new partner-in-crime Goldmember, all played by Mike Myers. A perfectly cast Michael Caine joins the franchise as Powers' father, a master spy who's more Bond than Harry Palmer, the working-class secret agent Caine played in five theatrical and cable TV films in the 1960s and 1990s, including The Ipcress File. Destiny's Child singer Beyoncé Knowles, the newest Powers girl, pays homage to the Pam Grier blaxploitation flicks of the 1970s as the butt-kicking Foxxy Cleopatra.
The cast additions clearly are an attempt to keep things fresh and fun, but the franchise is very quickly losing its mojo. Goldmember never seems more funnier or inspired than its cameo-laden pre-opening credits sequence, and it regurgitates too many of the first two films' most hilarious moments, as one guest star splutters. There are only so many times you can laugh at Powers purring, "Yeah, baby!" incessantly, Dr. Evil coddling clone Mini-Me and Scott Evil desperately trying to win his father's approval. Knowles brings a little spunk to the proceedings, but the film lacks comic sparks during Caine's many long absences. Goldmember is a worthless creation who does nothing except roller boogie and munch on his own dead skin.
Added up, that could harm Goldmember's opportunity of duplicating the success of its predecessor. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me debuted with $57.4 million, blowing away the $53.8 million total earned by Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and recording the third-highest-grossing weekend haul at the time. The Spy Who Shagged Me danced its way to a smashing $206 million total.
Goldmember's cheekiness should charm audiences who have shown little or no interest in recent newcomers K-19: The Widowmaker, Reign of Fire and Eight Legged Freaks. This second sequel should debut with a whopping $50 million--about even with Men in Black II and Scooby-Doo--but will lose its groove at around $170 million when the prevailing sense of déjà vu surrounding Goldmember starts to set in.
Accordingly, Goldmember will fail to gross more than its immediate predecessor, a trend that has afflicted the majority of this summer's sequels. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones remains the best example as it struggles to reach $300 million. Attack of the Clones has $295.6 million vs. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace's $431 million.
There go the Men in Black, as the sequel to the 1997 sci-fi spoof fell 40 percent in its third weekend, from $24.4 million to $14.5 million. MIBII has $163.4 million through Wednesday, with little chance of surpassing Men in Black's $250.1 million total.
The other Michael Myers--he who enjoys nothing more than slicing and dicing promiscuous teens--isn't scaring as many people as he did in Halloween: H20. Halloween: Resurrection, the eighth in the slasher franchise, dropped 55 percent in its second weekend, from $12.7 million to $5.5 million. Myers' H20 rampage, aided by the return of Jamie Lee Curtis, earned a bloody good $55 million. Resurrection, which reduces Curtis' presence to a pre-opening credits cameo, has $23.2 million through Tuesday.
The latest underachiever: the extremely expensive Stuart Little 2.
The sequel was expected to build upon the success of its 1999 predecessor, but the lovable animated rodent bit off more cheese than he could chew this time around. Stuart Little 2 debuted with $15.1 million vs. Stuart Little's $15 million. This lackluster debut allowed Road to Perdition to top the box office after opening last weekend in the second slot.
Stuart Little managed to climb to $140 million through sheer tenacity. With a mousy $22.1 million through Wednesday, Stuart Little 2 needs all the help it can get to scurry past $70 million. It doesn't help that Disney's Lilo & Stitch is still doing good business, having amassed $130.7 million through Wednesday, or that Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams opens in less than two weeks.
Only The Sum of All Fears looks set to surpass its predecessor, Clear and Present Danger, and would become the biggest earner in the Jack Ryan franchise in the process. The Sum of All Fears has $116.9 million through Sunday, while Clear and Present Danger ended with a $122 million total.
Remakes, conversely, seem like a sure thing. Adam Sandler's Mr. Deeds has $111 million through Wednesday. Insomnia, with Al Pacino and Robin Williams, has $66 million through Sunday.
Hollywood often seeks inspiration from comic books, classic and foreign films, TV shows and Internet-originated series.
But theme park attractions?
The Country Bears brings to life those singing grizzlies from the Disneyland and Disney World attractions. A young bear raised as a human sets out to finds its roots. Along the way, he recruits a band known as The Country Bears to help save a concert hall from being demolished by banker Christopher Walken. The Sixth Sense's Haley Joel Osment lends his voice to the young bear.
What's scarier? That such an attraction could inspire a film? Or that Disney has already commissioned a script for a sequel?
Not that a sequel--at least one headed for theaters--seems a possibility. If kids want to see a fairy tale about a talking animal adopted by a human family, they're more likely to be enticed by the familiarity of Stuart Little 2 than the country-rock shenanigans of The Country Bears. And parents would happily sit through Lilo & Stitch or Like Mike ($43.2 million through Wednesday) again before being dragged to see bear-costumed actors whoop it up Hee-Haw style.
With a likely opening of between $8 million and $10 million, The Country Bears will join The Powerpuff Girls Movie ($10.8 million through Sunday) and Hey Arnold! The Movie ($6.7 million through Sunday) as the summer's least family-friendly attractions.
Not that The Country Bears represents Disney's sole attraction-inspired film. Haunted Mansion will star Eddie Murphy. Johnny Depp, of all actors, will headline the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Pirates of the Caribbean. Let's hope it's not quite as small a world that Disney wants us to believe it is.
Kids currently seem to have little interest in animals, talking or otherwise, real or mythical.
The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course plummeted by 51 percent in its second weekend, from $9.5 million to $4.5 million, and has $20.8 million through Wednesday. Perhaps wild man Steve Irwin should stick to wrestling crocodiles on his cable TV show.
Eight Legged Freaks crawled its way to a disappointing $6.4 million weekend and has $11.2 million through Wednesday. The comic tale of giant mutated spiders overrunning a small Arizona town didn't look funny or scary enough for most folks.
Man's battle against fire-breathing dragons proved somewhat more appealing, but by not much. Reign of Fire eroded by 53 percent in its second weekend, from $15.6 million to $7.3 million, as it waged war against Eight Legged Freaks. With $32.1 million through Wednesday, Reign of Fire won't blaze past Dragonheart's $51.3 million total.
Stuart Little 2's struggles allowed Road to Perdition to gun its way to the top of last weekend's box office. Tom Hanks' gangland epic expanded from 1,797 theaters to 2,159 theaters and eased by 30 percent in its second weekend, from $22 million to $15.4 million. Initial estimates put Stuart Little 2 ahead of Road to Perdition, but when the final numbers came in, the latter reigned supreme. Still, that's the lowest-grossing No. 1 film since Queen of the Damned debuted Feb. 22 with $14.7 million.
Road to Perdition continues to capitalize on a stellar cast that includes Paul Newman and reviews that labeled this Irish Godfather as the first Oscar-worthy offering of the year. It has $52.9 million through Wednesday, with $100 million a certainty.
Hanks might play a Mob enforcer who kills in cold blood, but that's not stopping audiences from sympathizing with his plight to save his oldest son from being murdered. The same cannot be said for K-19, starring Harrison Ford as the stern commander of a crippled Russian nuclear submarine.
Torpedoed by poor reviews, K-19 limped to a $12.7 million opening. That's Ford's worst opening since his dire 1995 remake of Sabrina.
Ford, sporting a distracting Russian accent, couldn't interest teens or adults in a fictional account of a Cold War-era incident told from the Soviet perspective. With $16.7 million through Wednesday, K-19 will find itself sinking somewhere between The Devil's Own's $42.8 million and Random Hearts' $31 million.
While teens crowd MIBII and Mr. Deeds, adults are finding their way to films that offer more than gunfights, car chases and explosions. Road to Perdition is a good example. So is My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which has amassed $30.8 million without cracking the Top 10.
August will see several intelligent art house offerings that could receive such mainstream acceptance, including Full Frontal, The Good Girl and One Hour Photo.
Tadpole got a jump on the similarly themed The Good Girl, which both praise the virtues of older women. In Tadpole, a 16-year-old boy lusts after stepmother Sigourney Weaver but ends up bedding her best friend, Bebe Neuwirth.
Miramax picked up Tadpole for a reported $5 million after director Gary Winick's digitally shot coming-of-age comedy won the Best Dramatic Director's award at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Miramax's been burned before when overpaying for pickups--remember Happy, Texas?--but Tadpole is a genuinely smart and funny tale featuring terrific performances by Weaver, Neuwirth, John Ritter and relative newcomer Aaron Stanford.
Tadpole, which opened last weekend at six theaters and earned a solid $80,682, expands this weekend in certain cities. Whether Miramax overpaid for Tadpole remains open for debate.