As the fifth year at Hogwarts begins most of the wizardry world is having a hard time believing Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned further propagated by the Ministry of Magic who refuses to recognize anything evil is brewing and blames all the hullabaloo on Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). The Ministry even interferes with Hogwarts business by making Ministry employee Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor whose outwardly sweet demeanor hides a sadistic streak a mile wide. She thinks the children should only learn about the Dark Arts “theoretically” and tortures all those who disagree. But the Voldemort threat is a reality and Dumbledore has re-formed the Order of the Phoenix a group of witches and wizards that prepares to battle the Dark Lord. Harry is unfortunately being kept in the dark for his protection of course even as his connection to Voldemort grows stronger and he’s royally peeved at being ignored. Urged on by Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) he forms his own order of Hogwarts students called Dumbledore’s Army to teach them what defenses against the Dark Arts he has already learned. Oh yeah Harry also shares his first kiss but make no bones about it—love is the furthest thing on Harry’s mind when the crap hits the fan. War is imminent. Everyone steps up their game in Order of the Phoenix. Radcliffe Watson and Grint have shed their adolescent whininess and aw-shucks goofiness to give their characters the greatest depth so far. They are forced to grow up pretty quickly in Order with little time for any playfulness and the three actors handle the seriousness with aplomb. Of course both Radcliffe and Grint have already ventured out of the Potter world—Radcliffe shed more than just adolescence on stage in a production of Equus while Grint lost his virginity in the indie Driving Lessons--and their extra experience shows in Order. Also good are Matthew Lewis as the usually clumsy Neville Longbottom who shows his mettle in more ways than one and newcomer Evanna Lynch as the slightly off-kilter Luna Lovegood who proves to be a loyal member of Dumbledore’s Army. But the kids have to keep up with the talented adult cast especially Oscar-nominated Staunton (Vera Drake) as Umbridge. The veteran actress’ interpretation of one of J.K. Rowling’s nastiest characters so far in the Potter lore is spot-on down to the pink wool suits and irritating twitter “ahem” she uses when she wants your undivided attention. Helena Bonham Carter also makes an impression however over the top it is as the evil Voldemort follower Bellatrix Lestrange. Does she ever want to look pretty onscreen? Then there’s the laundry list of Brits whose time onscreen may be short but is nonetheless memorable including Alan Rickman as the sneering Prof. Snape; Gambon as the wise but flawed Dumbledore; Gary Oldman as the kindly Sirius Black Harry’s only real family; and of course Fiennes as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. His late-in-the-game appearance once again throws you for a loop. It stands to reason that at five movies in moviegoers would have a favorite Harry Potter flick by now. Those who love those Triwizard Tournament special effects might feel The Goblet of Fire was the best; or Prisoner of Azkaban for its time-bending action. Yet The Order of the Phoenix may be the one movie that speaks directly to the fans of the books. Without as much wide-eyed wonderment or wizardry flash the story is still chockfull of compelling details that are absolutely pivotal to the continuing Harry Potter saga. Screenwriter Michael Goldenberg (Peter Pan) and director David Yates (HBO’s The Girl in the Café) manage to wade through this volume of information and cut successfully to the chase with great effect. Yates who has signed on to do the sixth movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince even shows an affinity for action in the final dramatic confrontation between good witches and wizards and bad ones. But overall Order of the Phoenix may leave audiences not as well-versed in the novels a little itchy for some good old-fashioned wand-waving and Disney special effects. Thing is it’s just going to keep getting darker and darker for Harry and his crew. The days of happy fun playtime are over.
Creating a scent on screen has long been thought to be impossible—but Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is an above-average effort triggering the raw emotions from smell without the gimmicks of 1950's Smell-O-Vision. Based on the best-selling novel by Patrick Suskind Perfume focuses on Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) a weird dude who was born into filth and poverty amid the guts and vomit of an open-air French fish market. Although he has no human scent of his own Grenouille’s world-class sense of smell is able to penetrate people's skin—and he’s attracted to the female scent. Not in a sexual way mind you; he wants only to bottle it. When Grenouille meets fallen (but still legendary) perfumer Giuseppe Baldini (Dustin Hoffman) the younger sets out to titrate the most elusive perfume known to man: A woman's pheromones. Problem is women won't stay long enough so Grenoiulle can capture their scent and the young man ends up killing them. When Grenoiulle kills a powerful merchant's (Alan Rickman) daughter his execution is planned for a public square. Whishaw is the real star here but playing Grenouille may have proven a challenge for the young British actor since the character is beloved by fans of the best-selling novel. Whishaw is forced to go mute and inert as Grenoiulle his intensity focused inward with quiet gazes and mysterious intensity arousing doubt and fear. Grenouille is a man handsome in his youth but ultimately one we despise--or at least someone we wouldn’t want to hang out with. And for a change of pace a powdered rosy-cheeked Hoffman comes up smelling roses in this period thriller. As Baldini in costume flair the two-time Oscar winner does something quite different no longer just the colorful supporting player he’s been playing in light dramas such as Finding Neverland and Stranger Than Fiction. Baldini isn't one of Hoffman's best roles as Whishaw owns this film but it's a fun performance which pays attention to the actor’s pronounced proboscis. Rickman of Harry Potter fame is an enraged vengeful father. Natch. Perfume is director Tom Tykwer's first major commercial film since his 1998's go-go thriller Run Lola Run--and as a thriller Perfume is built around solid dialogue-driven scenes notably between Grenouille and Baldini. Apparently 57-year-old German writer Patrick Suskind refused for years to give up the rights to his book but producer Bernd Eichinger—the guy behind The Neverending Story's precocious 1980's futurism—finally won out. Nuggets of Suskind’s literary wisdom only enhance the movie's continuity and realism scattered incrementally to remind us we're watching an intelligently conceived film. Perfume is unwieldy at 147 minutes however a bit fatty and unnecessary at the film's cost. Sometimes that happens with novel adaptations especially one as popular as Perfume. In fact the film ends with an unusually bizarre orgy with hundreds of naked people writhing in hormone-driven ecstasy. What smells so lovely Mr. Tykwer?
October 19, 2001 5:57am EST
The film opens with prison warden Colonel Winter (Robert Redford) greeting the highly respected General Irwin (James Gandolfini) at the start of his 10-year sentence for disobeying a presidential order. When they meet Irwin makes a snide remark about Winter--a non combatant--proudly showcasing military trinkets and memorabilia in his office. The comment instantly touches off a power war between the two which ends with Irwin threatening to take over the prison and flying the American flag upside down--a symbol that the castle has fallen. Winter rises to the challenge and the two begin their strategic plotting. Irwin wins the respect of his fellow inmates in an overly drawn scene where he is forced to carry large stones from one pile to another in the prison courtyard and forms an army of inmates using clichéd chess tactics to demonstrate his assault plans. Winter meanwhile watches from his cozy office overlooking the courtyard as if he was watching a reality series on a big-screen TV.
The highly regarded General Irwin is a simple solemn type which unfortunately is what is fundamentally wrong with the film. While Redford does the brooding thing quite well the script never calls for him to do anything more than that. James Gandolfini takes on the role of prison warden Colonel Winter with fitting simplicity. He accentuates Winter's dumb-thug persona by over-enunciating his words and speaking in an unnaturally slow manner. Redford and Gandolfini both churn out great performances but it would have been more rewarding had the script called for their characters to be more well-rounded. Steve Burton plays Winter's right hand man Captain Peretz convincingly considering what few lines he has. His body language facial expressions and dialogue manage to convey his character's thoughts even when his lines don't.
Directed by Rod Lurie (The Contender) The Last Castle is a well-paced story without a dull moment. It concludes with a dramatic and exciting climax but the problem is it's just too simple. While it's easy to get caught up in the story it's hard to buy how easily the inmates are able to take control of such a heavily guarded maximum-security prison. Using cafeteria trays as shields is one thing but hurling stones using a giant catapult that somehow went unnoticed by prison security is hard to swallow. So is the fact that these inmates a group of hardened criminals cooperate so easily with hardly any friction. While it could have been a very emotional story it fails because the characters are one-dimensional and never really explored including the two main characters played by Redford and Gandolfini. One is a great strategist and the other draconian but viewers are left to guess why and how they got that way.
A dirty cop and a pair of nice-guy bank robbers set out to prove this weekend that crime does indeed pay.
The $22.5 million collared last weekend by Training Day represents Denzel Washington's biggest opening weekend to date. The highly charged tale of police corruption--featuring Washington in a rare villainous turn--continued to play well during the week, earning $28.6 million through Wednesday. Accordingly, Washington should have the muscle to stop his Siege co-star Bruce Willis from stealing off with the box office crown.
Directed by Barry Levinson, Bandits casts Willis and Billy Bob Thornton as affable crooks who gain celebrity for their unusually method of robbing banks. They hold hostage the bank manager the night before a heist, eat dinner with manager and his family, spend the night at his home, and then force him to let them into the bank in the morning.
Previously, Willis and Thornton's efforts to save the world resulted in 1998's Armageddon, which earned $201 million in the process.
Breaking into banks also should be a profitable venture for Willis and Thornton, though not much as Armageddon or Willis' The Sixth Sense, which made $293.5 million. Bandits' success will likely mirror that of Willis' recent hit comedies rather than his celebrated forays into science fiction and the supernatural. The Whole Nine Yards, with Willis as a hitman, claimed $13.7 million in 1999 and eventually made $57.2 million. Disney's The Kid opened in July 2000 with $12.6 million, with summer audiences pushing it to a $69.6 million gross.
At least one person needs Bandits to enjoy a long and sustained run, and that's Levinson. The Rain Man Oscar winner last tasted success with Wag the Dog, the Hollywood satire about a war concocted to conceal a presidential scandal. Wag the Dog, of course, had the good fortune to open wide in January 1998 just as Monicagate captured a nation's attention and President Clinton had launched military action against terrorist targets in Afghanistan and Sudan. The result: a $43 million hit. Since then, Levinson's directed possibly the worst adaptation of a Michael Crichton novel ever, the waterlogged Sphere, which earned a paltry $37.2 million. Liberty Heights, the fourth of Levinson's semi-autobiographical Baltimore-set comedy-dramas, made $3.7 million in early 2000. Levinson's barely released An Everlasting Piece resulted in a lawsuit by its producer, Jerome O'Connor, who claimed that DreamWorks buried the Irish comedy at the request of the British government because of its thorny politics.
Who is Corky Romano? So read the teaser posters for Chris Kattan's new comedy, posters that also prompt the question: Who cares about Corky Romano? Kattan is the latest Saturday Night Live jokester to try his luck as a movie star. It's taken a while for former SNLers Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider and David Spade to establish their silver-screen credentials, so Kattan isn't likely to enjoy instant success. Will Ferrell, the only current SNLer to enjoy a somewhat thriving Hollywood career, seems to have done so by virtue of appearing in anything and everything.
Ferrell and Kattan did dance with disaster with the awful SNL skit-inspired A Night at the Roxbury, which made $30.3 million in the fall of 1998. Kattan's track record also includes the ensemble horror yarn House on Haunted Hill, which made $40.8 million in the fall of 1999, and Monkeybone, whose $5.4 million gross qualifies it as this year's biggest flop.
With Corky Romano already earning dire reviews, and stiff competition in the form of Ben Stiller's still-thriving fashion industry satire Zoolander ($30.2 million through Wednesday), Kattan shouldn't hand that letter of resignation just yet to SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels.
The surprise martial arts smash Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon no doubt prompted Miramax to reissue 1993's Iron Monkey, directed by Crouching Tiger action choreographer Yuen Wo Ping. Such releases tend to fare poorly, as witnessed by Miramax's previous attempts to bring to America those annoyingly dubbed versions of Jackie Chan's Hong Kong classics. Last fall's The Legend of Drunken Master, for example, staggered to a pitiful $11.5 million. Iron Monkey does have the advantage of being subtitled--which certainly enhanced Crouching Tiger's statue with the arthouse crowd--but it does lack the presence of a Jackie Chan, Jet Li or Chow Yun-Fat.
Miramax must make do with the popularity of Serendipity, which should enjoy a long and lasting affair with audiences looking for a romantic getaway from the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan. Through Wednesday, John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale have wooed $16.5 million in sales. Beckinsale's Pearl Harbor may have made more on its opening day, but no one went to see the expensive World War II epic for its romantic interludes. Serendipity is outpacing Cusack's bittersweet High Fidelity, which opened in March 2000 with $6.4 million at almost 1,200 theaters and sung its way to $27.2 million. Serendipity does have the advantage of now being in 2,600 theaters.
Don't Say a Word should continue to lose its audience to Training Day and soon to Bandits. Michael Douglas enjoyed his biggest opening weekend gross with Don't Say a Word, but the white-collar thriller won't stand out as one of his most memorable in terms of box office. Having collected $34.3 million through Wednesday, Don't Say a Word looks set to surpass The Game ($48.2 million) but will fail to out do A Perfect Murder ($67.6 million). That's a far cry from Basic Instinct's $117.7 million or Disclosure's $83 million.
Leelee Sobieski certainly learned her lesson about starring in two very disposable and oft-delayed teen-targeted thrillers in a row. The Duel-like Joy Ride, costarring Paul Walker and Steve Zahn, spluttered its way to a $7.3 million opening and has just $9.3 million through Wednesday. That's somewhat better than Sobieski's The Glass House, which opened after last month's terrorist attacks to a very weak $5.7 million and has since collected $16.6 million. Sobieski returns this weekend--and clearly not soon enough--to the arthouse circuit with My First Mister costarring Albert Brooks, a generation-bending variation of The Odd Couple.
Seems the kids failed to take much notice of Max Keeble's Big Move. Keeble has pocketed $6.6 million to date, and will likely end up as filler on the Disney Channel much sooner than later.
Hearts in Atlantis will join The Shawshank Redemption as another underachiever based on one of Stephen King's more mature tales. Shawshank managed to make its unremarkable $28.2 million solely on the strength of its modest Oscar campaign. With its less-than-enthusiastic reviews and $17.6 million gross, the supernatural Anthony Hopkins vehicle will have a tough time climbing to the same lowly height.
Barring a last-minute rally, summer holdovers Rush Hour 2 and The Others could finally drop out of the Top 10 this weekend. Rush Hour 2 ranks as the year's second-highest grossing film, with $221.9 through Wednesday.
The Others remains one of the year's biggest surprises, having enjoyed a lengthy run thanks to its twists and turns. With $91.1 million through Wednesday, the modestly marketed ghost story swept past Nicole Kidman's other summer entry, the lavishly hyped, over-praised and commercially successful Moulin Rouge, with relatively ease. Divorce has obviously been good to Kidman, at least professionally.