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]
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
At the box office this weekend, a mother-daughter comedy was no match for some good old cops-and-robbers action.
In its opening weekend, the bullet-riddled police drama S.W.A.T. infiltrated the box office and took the top spot at $37 million*, easily beating out its kinder,gentler competitor, the Disney family fare Freaky Friday. Despite generating great word-of-mouth since its Wednesday opening, the body-switching remake could only come in second with $22.3 million.
The ribald comedy American Wedding dropped from the top to take third place with $15.1 million, while the whale of a tale Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl remained steady as she goes at No. 4 with $13.1 million. The heartwarming Seabiscuit rounded out the top five with a solid $11.9 million.
Another newcomer, the Frenchified Le Divorce, did a fair job in its limited opening, raking in $533,233 in 34 theaters.
THE TOP TEN
Sony Pictures' PG-13-rated S.W.A.T. busted the box office to take the top spot with an ESTIMATED $37 million in 3,202 theaters. It's $11,555 per theater average was the highest of any film opening wide this week.
Newly trained LAPD S.W.A.T. team members are called in to save the day after an arms dealer makes a televised offer of $100 million to anyone who can break him out of jail--and L.A.'s criminal element comes out in force to do so.
Directed by Clark Johnson, it stars Colin Farrell, Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J and Michelle Rodriguez.
Buena Vista's PG-rated Freaky Friday debuted in second place with an ESTIMATED $22.3 million in 2,954 theaters ($7,549 per theater).
On a freaky Friday morning, a busy psychiatrist and her 15-year-old daughter wake up to find they have magically switched bodies. Until they can figure out what to do, they attempt to carry on with each other's daily routines.
Directed by Mark Waters, it stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Chad Michael Murray and Mark Harmon.
Universal Picture's R-rated comedy American Wedding dropped to No. 3 in its second week with an ESTIMATED $15.1 million (-55%) at 3,175 theaters (+3 theaters; $4,756 per theater). This third installment of the American Pie series, in which Jim and Michelle get married, has garnered a cume of $64.9 million.
Directed by Jesse Dylan, it stars Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Alyson Hannigan, Eddie Kaye Thomas and Thomas Ian Nicholas.
Buena Vista Pictures' PG-13-rated fantasy actioner Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl fell one spot to fourth place in its fifth week of release with an ESTIMATED $13.1 million (-30%) at 3,170 theaters (-220 theaters; $4,132 per theater). Its cume is approximately $232.8 million.
Directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it stars Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley.
Universal Pictures' PG-13-rated drama Seabiscuit fell a notch to No. 5 in its third week, taking in an ESTIMATED $11.9 million (-33%) in 2,428 theaters (+7 theaters; $4,901 per theater). Its cume is approximately $69.5 million.
Directed by Gary Ross, it stars Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper as three down-and-out men who find fame and fortune in an equally down-and-out racehorse.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Dropping off considerably was Dimension Films' PG-rated Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, which slipped four spots to No. 6 in its third week with an ESTIMATED $10.1 million (-48%) in 3,388 theaters (+24 theaters; $2,992 per theater). Its cume is approximately $87.4 million.
Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, it stars Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Sylvester Stallone, Salma Hayek and Ricardo Montalban.
Sony Picture's R-rated buddy actioner Bad Boys II moved down the list two place to take seventh in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $6 million (-53%) at 2,449 theaters (-573 theaters; $2,450 per theater). Its cume is approximately $123 million.
Directed by Michael Bay, it stars Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Jordi Molla, Gabrielle Union and Peter Stormare.
Paramount Pictures' PG-13-rated, action-packed Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life dropped two rungs to eighth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $5.2 million (-54 %) in 3,036 theaters (-186 theaters; $1,713 per theater). Its cume is approximately $53.6 million.
Directed by Jan De Bont, it stars Angelina Jolie, Gerald Butler, Chris Barrie, Ciaran Hinds and Noah Taylor.
Still a major success story, Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar Animation Studios' G-rated computer-animated feature Finding Nemo dropped two spots to No. 9 in its 11th week with an ESTIMATED $2.5 million (-35%) at 1,502 theaters (-275 theaters; $1,664 per theater). Its cume is approximately $319.9 million.
Directed and co-written by Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton, it features the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe and Brad Garrett.
Warner Bros.' R-rated sci-fi actioner Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines finished in tenth place for the second week in a row with an ESTIMATED $1.6 million (-46%) at 1,275 theaters (-635; $1,271 per theater). Now in its sixth week, its cume is approximately $145.9 million.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow, it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes and Kristanna Loken.
Fox Searchlight's PG-13-rated Le Divorce opened with a healthy ESTIMATED $533,233 in 34 theaters. It's $15,683 per theater average was actually the highest of any movie playing this week.
Based on the best-selling novel by Diane Johnson, it follows the adventures of two American sisters living in Paris.
Directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant, it stars Kate Hudson, Naomi Watts, Leslie Caron, Sam Waterston, Glenn Close and Stockard Channing.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $ 127.3 million, down 3.68 percent from last year's take of $132.2 million. The Top 12 films were also down 3.29 percent from last weekend when they grossed $131.7 million.
Last year's top three included: Sony's PG-13-rated actioner xXx, which opened in first place with $44.5 million in 3,374 theaters ($13,191 per theater average). Buena Vista's PG-13 rated sci-fi thriller Signs, dropped a spot to take second in its second week with $29.4 million at 3,310 theaters ($8,899 per theater average); Dimension's PG-rated fun fest Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams opened in third place with $16.7 million in 3,307 theaters ($5,053 per theater average).