Welcome to the dog days of summer.
Last weekend's release of American Pie 2 represented the summer's last sure thing.
Hollywood traditionally treats mid- to late August as a dumping ground, littering theaters with garbage in the hopes of making a quick buck before and during the Labor Day weekend. Think Chill Factor. The Crow: City of Angels. Knock Off. Highlander: Endgame. Get the picture?
This trash mentality no doubt explains the arrival of two of this weekend's new films: American Outlaws and Rat Race.
A Western that enthusiastically mythologizes the exploits of bank robber Jesse James, American Outlaws stars the hottest actor you've never heard of: Colin Farrell.
The Irish unknown won raves last year for his performance as a hardened solider in the gritty Tigerland. So what if distributor 20th Century Fox ignored the goodwill that the Joel Schumacher-directed Vietnam saga generated among critics and released it in only a handful of theaters? Hollywood took notice of Farrell.
Farrell suddenly became the actor to turn to when a studio's A-list choice dropped out of a hot project. He replaced Matt Damon in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report, Jim Carrey in Phone Booth and Edward Norton in Hart's War.
American Outlaws will provide American audiences with their first opportunity to acquaint themselves with Hollywood's hottest overnight sensation since Matthew McConaughey. Unfortunately, American Outlaws offers Farrell little to do except smile. And smile. Directed by Les Mayfield, American Outlaws plays like a third Young Guns. There are moments when you're waiting for Jon Bon Jovi to arrive and burst into "Wanted: Dead or Alive."
In recent years, Westerns have failed to make much of a bang at the box office. Even Wild Wild West, with its $113.8 million gross, was considered a major flop for Will Smith. If anything, with its unknown but rugged cast, American Outlaws should make more than Bad Girls' 15.1 million total but will probably fall short of the Brat Pack-driven Young Guns II's $40.1 million total.
Back in the late 1980s, famed producer Dino De Laurentiis tried in vain to create a Reagan-era It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Such was the disinterest in Million Dollar Mystery--headlined by, of all people, Eddie Deezen--ended up earning about the same amount of money that its greedy characters tried to get their grubby hands on.
Rat Race should fare better than Million Dollar Mystery, which ultimately contributed to the demise of De Laurentiis' mini-studio. For starters, Rat Race implicates Cuba Gooding Jr., John Cleese, Jon Lovitz, Rowan Atkinson and Whoopi Goldberg in a race to win $2 million stuffed in a locker in New Mexico. It also was directed by Jerry Zucker, who co-created the classic Airplane! before enjoying solo success with Ghost.
Still, the idea of a cross-country jaunt filled with supposedly hysterical repercussions seems creaky at best, especially given that Mad World director Stanley Kramer already mined a similar star-studded road trip for all it was worth. Also, theaters were only 60 percent filled for Rat Race previews held Saturday.
While the fate of American Outlaws and Rat Race seem dubious, Captain Corelli's Mandolin looks poised to capture many hearts this weekend.
That Universal delayed the World War II romance from spring to mid-summer seems fortuitous given the media hoopla surrounding Tom Cruise's new girlfriend, Penelope Cruz. Cruz is far from a box office certainty--Woman on Top made $5 million, All the Pretty Horses made $15.5 million--but the intense focus on her love life should ignite interest in the summer's second high-minded romance to employ war as its backdrop. Nicolas Cage--about to go to war for a second time in John Woo's upcoming Windtalkers--also should sell some tickets.
Cruz should deflect attention away from Captain Corelli's Mandolin's lukewarm reception this past spring in the United Kingdom. Audiences across the pond found the adaptation of Louis de Bernieres' much-loved novel lacking, resulting in a disappointing $10 million at the box office. Expectations also were high given that Captain Corelli's Mandolin marks director John Madden's first offering since his Oscar-winning Shakespeare In Love.
Still, Captain Corelli's Mandolin doesn't have the potential to unseat American Pie 2 or Rush Hour 2 from, respectively, the No. 1 and 2 spots.
The second helping of American Pie laughed up $45.1 million in its opening weekend, the biggest haul yet for an R-rated comedy. That beat Scary Movie 2's opening by $2.8 million. Through Wednesday, American Pie 2 has rustled up $62 million, or more than half of its predecessor's $101.8 million total. If anything, this proves that, contrary to popular belief, the R-rated teen sex romp is alive, well and ready to score. With the significant lack of competition, American Pie 2 should retain the top spot this weekend, making it only the third film this summer to remain No. 1 for two consecutive weekends.
American Pie 2 also looks certain to join that exclusive club of films that rake in millions more than their predecessors. Rush Hour 2 earned its membership Tuesday, when the Jackie Chan-Chris Tucker action yarn hit $141.5 million. That's $400,000 more than Rush Hour made. Its total through Wednesday stands at $144.7 million.
Rush Hour 2 experienced a 51 percent drop in its second weekend--from $67.4 million to $33.1 million--continuing a trend that has plagued most of the summer's big guns. Still, that's $100,000 more than Rush Hour made in its opening weekend in September 1998. Rush Hour 2 also held up better in its second weekend than Planet of the Apes and Jurassic Park III, and of the three, it's the likeliest to make $200 million.
The Princess Diaries looks set to challenge Legally Blonde as the summer's biggest non-action sleeper. Director Garry Marshall's fairy tale dropped a modest 38 percent in its second weekend-from $22.9 million to $14.2 million-and has $58.5 million in its royal coffers through Wednesday. Legally Blonde, now in its fifth week, is up to $80.2 million.
Conversely, Osmosis Jones will wind up alongside Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Original Sin as the summer's biggest flops. The prospect of taking a trip through Bill Murray's innards clearly seemed too nauseating for the audience, as the combination live action/animation family comedy opened with a disgusting $5.2 million. It's made $7.1 million through Wednesday.
Speaking of Original Sin, the Antonio Banderas-Angelina Jolie erotic thriller has managed to only scrape up $13.6 million in 12 days through Wednesday. That wasn't the only bad news for Banderas. His reissued Spy Kids made only $1.5 million last weekend, perhaps indicating that audiences only want to see a smash hit with new footage when it's issued on DVD.
If Captain Corelli's Mandolin is relying on the Cruz factor, then The Others is exploiting the Cruise factor to keep it scaring audiences. Starring Nicole Kidman and executive produced by ex-husband Tom Cruise, the summer's sole horror tale has scared up an impressive $19.5 million through Wednesday.
The moral of the story? Score an instant box office smash should you divorce a major Hollywood hotshot.
Hum, wonder whether that applies if you date a newly divorced major Hollywood hotshot?
Festivals wrap; "Clerks" director makes points with wife; Joey Lawrence shines (really)
PARK CITY, Utah, Jan. 30, 2000 - Done.
"Girlfight" and "You Can Count on Me" - the two films everybody talked about non-stop up here - ended up as the two films everybody talked about non-stop during Saturday's awards ceremony at the Raquet Center. The movies took two awards each - tying as the Grand Jury Prize winner for best dramatic film.
"Two Family House" - a film that as far as we were concerned nobody talked about up here - ended up as the upset winner in the Audience Award category, supposedly a popular vote. We're not sure what audience voted for it, but we're sure it wasn't the people at the Raquet Center. The films that drew the biggest applause during a rundown of the competition dramas were, of course, "Girlfight" and "You Can Count on Me," as well as "Songcatcher," "Urbania" and "Our Song." Of course, "Two Family House" wasn't included in that rundown because it wasn't a competition flick - it was an American Spectrum entry.
For a complete look at the night's winners, check out The Buzz.
In other festival action:
IT'S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS: "I've said this before and I'll say it again, I sort of wish there wasn't a competition at the festival because [as] nice, gratifying and thrilling as it is to win a prize, it's just so nice to be here. And I sort of wish we could all get here and be here and that would be it." - "You Can Count on Me" writer/director Kenneth Lonergan, to Hollywood.com.
LIKE WE SAID, IT'S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS: So, was Mr. Lonergan willing to give back his two awards he won Saturday? "No. Despite my altruistic sentiments."
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SUNDANCE AWARDS AND THE SLAMDANCE AWARDS: The Slamdance awards are held in a bar; the Sundance awards are held at a health club. The Slamdance awards take about an hour to hand out; the Sundance awards take about two hours to hand out. The Sundance awards also feature many more speeches about the importance of film festivals, in general, and Sundance, in particular.
EXCEPT FOR THOSE OF YOU SEATED IN THE BACK ROWS BEHIND THE PRESS AND SPONORS: "This evening is really yours …" - Sundance festival co-director Nicole Guillemet, in her opening remarks to filmmakers.
FINALLY, A REAL MOMENT: "P.S.: [Expletive deleted] Slamdance." - Faux letter from Robert Redford, as read by Sundance juror/potty-mouthed filmmaker Kevin Smith ("Clerks").
PRESENTER'S ULTERIOR MOTIVE REVEALED: "I'm so getting laid tonight." - Kevin Smith (again), after thanking his wife for no particular reason before revealing the winner of the best dramatic director award.
AND NOW YOU KNOW: "Girlfight" writer/director Karyn Kusama's first name is pronounced "Car-in," not "Care-in," as she pointed out on stage moments after the aforementioned Mr. Smith botched it.
AND NOW YOU KNOW THAT, TOO: Mercedes-Benz has cared deeply about independent film for a decade - or so said the Mercedes-Benz mucky-muck allotted stage time on account of the luxury-car maker is the official sponsor of Sundance's Grand Jury Prizes.
THAT SPECIAL TOUCH: "Can you, uh, GET OUT THE WAY." - Sundance volunteer, to person standing in said Sundance volunteer's way.
SOME PRIZES COME IN CASH FORM: "Groove" and "Chuck and Buck" both got high-profile deals in the last week - but not a single Sundance award.
TASTY STUFF WE ATE AT THE AFTER-PARTY: Quiche Lorraine, lemon-grilled chicken on focaccia, vegetarian frittata and little square brown fudgy things.
SPOTTED: Kevin Smith chatting up comic Bobcat Goldthwait near the bathroom directional sign at the Raquet Center.
MOVIES WE SAW:
1. "Good Housekeeping" (Slamdance Competition Feature) -- Frank Novak's debut feature, which won the Slamdance Grand Jury Award for best feature, is like a 92-minute episode of "Cops," with all the grit, grime and white trash of that voyeuristic hit -- plus lots more laughs. Don (Bob Mills) and Donatella (Petra Westen) are two weeks away from divorce court and their domestic strife is reaching a crescendo. Then, Don erects a wall in the middle of the house to draw the battle lines. He's aided in his war with the missus by a gaggle of oddball friends including his loser brother (who sleeps in the car on the lawn), a fellow action-figure collector geek, and a divorced friend turned men's-rights activist, who gives Don a pistol and a Laaz military rocket for "self defense." This is an alarmingly realistic movie about an extremely dysfunctional family, but its sometimes-absurd humor makes it a delightful, if not always easy, movie to watch. (-- Steve Ryfle)
2. "Dolphins" (Slamdance Competition Feature) -- Think "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest," sans dialogue, and with a beautiful young woman standing in for Jack Nicholson. Throw in amazing cinematography, a la the craftsmanship of "Manhattan," and you're close to describing this 40-minute debut from Iranian-born Farhad Yawari, which won (despite its brief running time) this fest's Audience Award for best feature. A female mental patient (Julia Brendler) stares into her goldfish bowl and imagines herself swimming underwater with a school of dolphins. When she refuses to live by the house rules, the girl is repeatedly subdued by a Nurse Ratched-like character until a good-hearted garbage man busts her out of the nut house. The story is only one component of this multi-layered movie -- the music, the images and the performances meld seamlessly. Sure, it's a bit pretentious and artsy-fartsy, but it's obvious that Yawari is a filmmaker of great talent. (-- S.R.)
3. "Desperate But Not Serious" (SlamDunk) -- Bill Fishman, who has directed music videos for bands ranging from Suicidal Tendencies to Hank Williams Jr., as well as the big-screen comedies "Tapeheads" and Car 54, Where Are You?," weighs in with this $650,000 would-be comedic satire of the Los Angeles night-life scene. A San Francisco chick (Christine Taylor of "The Brady Bunch Movie") flies into L.A. to rendezvous with her botanist boyfriend (John Corbett) at a wedding reception, but when she loses the invitation she spends the entire night hopping from party to party with her party-gal friend (Paget Brewster) in search of her beau. During their misadventures, the girls meet a psychopath bartender (Henry Rollins), Brewster's ex-boyfriend (Max Perlich), a pretentious grrl rocker (Claudia Schiffer) and a pampered-but-nice movie star (Joey Lawrence -- the best thing about the film, really). In the end, Taylor gets her man (duh) but it's too late - the movie's already self-destructed with its unfunny, rambling dialogue and lack of story. Rent "Party Girl" instead. (-- S.R.)
BEST TAKE ON THE SUNDANCE Y2K EXPERIENCE: "It was monkeys and clowns all around." - Two anonymous filmmakers at The Club on Main Street.
WHAT ONE NON-FILMMAKER GOT OUT OF SUNDANCE: "Varicose veins from standing in line." -- Susan Nicolls, senior public relations manager, Macromedia.
HOW SUNDANCE Y2K DIFFERED FROM PREVIOUS SUNDANCES: "It's the same pretentiousness and arrogance. Have you seen these girls walking around outside with bare midriffs? What guy would want a girl with a blue stomach?" - Quotemeister Susan Nicolls.
WHY SLAMDANCE IS BETTER THAN SUNDANCE (ONE OPINION): "They're not kicking you out of parties like at Sundance." -- Sharon Reed, aspiring filmmaker.
WHY SUNDANCE IS BETTER THAN SLAMDANCE (ONE OPINION): "It was an excuse to party. In that respect, it succeeded tremendously."-- James Dudyen, filmmaker.
BEST PARTY: The Entertainment Weekly-sponsored bash on Jan. 21 at the Silver Lake Lodge. The free food (chicken strips with peanut dipping sauce) was refined; the view was spectacular; the band (Norway's own Getaway People) was very good. But, most of all, the festival was very young and we w ren't sick of this place yet. (-- J.R.)
WORST PARTY: The one on Friday night at Harry O's where the Worst (Most-Effective) Bouncer (see: below) put our own Jim Bartoo in a headlock on account of … well, to tell you the truth, we're still not exactly sure why.
BIGGEST PARTY TREND: Raves. Maybe it was the effect of the movie "Groove" being a big hit up here this year, but it wasn't surprising to see the president of New Line letting it all out on the dance floor to DJ's Digweed and Sasha. Rave culture touched everything at Sundance from the give-aways, (knit caps, disco-ball-keychains, and flashers) to the clothes (funk-sneakers and hi-tech nylon cargo-pants anyone?). (-- Gerry Katzman)
WORST (MOST-EFFECTIVE) BOUNCER: The nightclub Harry O's, which featured nightly performances by the likes of Sugar Ray, Primus, Third Eye Blind, and the Cult, should take the scads of money it made this week and open a studio, because as Hollywood Royalty waited in line and pleaded, "Let me in! I'm cold!," the red-mohawked bouncer replied, "Shut up, or none of you are getting in!" We smell a studio head in the making. (-- G.K.)
MOST CONSECUTIVE NIGHTS STANDING IN FRONT OF HARRY O'S WITHOUT GETTING IN: Four, as accomplished by Hollywood.com's Chuck Walton.
MOST UBIQUITOUS DRINK: "I have never seen so much frickin' Red Bull in my frickin life!" one party-goer screamed to us. The mediciney-sweet energy drink was everywhere in Park City. Red Bull, which contains "taurine," some kind of amino-acidy energy potion, is illegal in France - and, hence, a perfect compliment to vodka. (-- G.K.)
BEST SUGGESTION: Hold this stupid thing in May when it's, like, not FREAKIN' COLD outside.
Peanut butter and jelly aren't the only things that go together for Edward Burns. The actor-writer-director can't resist casting his latest ingenues in his latest projects.
First there was Maxine Bahns in "The Brothers McMullen" and "She's the One." Then there was the interlude with Jim Carrey's ex, Lauren Holly, in "No Looking Back." Up next: current galpal Heather Graham in his new romantic comedy "Sidewalks of New York."
The indie project, set in New York (obviously), interweaves several modern love stories. Co-stars include actor-filmmaker Stanley Tucci, "Light It Up's" Rosario Dawson and "Girl, Interrupted's" Brittany Murphy. In his standard do-it-all fashion, Burns serves as the director, writer and producer.
Daily Variety reports that shooting will begin Wednesday in Gotham.
Burns, 32, and Graham, 30, began dating in 1998.
THE CONTENDERS: "The Insider's" Michael Mann may have the skinny on the director's chair for the planned big-screen Muhammad Ali biopic.
Columbia Pictures and producer Jon Peters have met with several A-listers to direct the Will Smith-toplined project. Variety says the contenders are Mann, Spike Lee and Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential").
A final decision is expected soon. The studio has been looking for a candidate since "Wild Wild West" director Barry Sonnenfeld exited last fall. The story follows the pre-Ali days when the fighter was simply an up-and-coming buck named Cassius Clay.
Mann's name comes into play just days after he earned three Oscar nominations for directing, writing and producing "The Insider." Also on Mann's list of possible projects are a few other box-office heavyweights. He's met with Brad Pitt about "Shooter," a story that follows a sniper lured out of retirement and then betrayed; and he's developing a Howard Hughes biopic with Leonardo DiCaprio. (Leo's also attached to Mann's cops-and-corruption tale "The Inside Man.") Plus, there's an epic Mann's producing with Tom Hanks about Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great -- two dead Roman leader guys.
FLOATING ON 'FEATHERS': New sensation Jude Law won't be resting on that Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for long. Variety says "The Talented Mr. Ripley" co-star has committed to the lead role in "Four Feathers," a project that begins shooting in July.
"Elizabeth's" Shekhar Kapur will be at the helm for the Paramount/Miramax co-production. The movie's a remake of the Zoltan Korda tale about a British officer who resigns before battle and is given four white feathers by his fiancŽe and friends to remind him of his cowardice.
Law's also looking to position himself as "The Good Shepherd" in an MGM pic to be directed by Robert De Niro. The actor recently read for the Erich Roth script, about a CIA agent recruited during the agency's early World War II-era days. Over time, the responsibility of being a secret agent begins to take its toll on his family life.
"Shepherd" would preoccupy the actor's time come early 2001.