Near the end of the Tang Dynasty in 10th century China things are not well between the Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) and his Empress (Gong Li). She serves more as an arm piece to him and begins to suspect that he is poisoning her to keep her subservient. The Emperor brings his son Prince Jai (Jay Chou) to the palace and Jai is concerned for the Empress's health. She also seems to have some sort of hold on her stepson Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye) who just wants to run away with the palace doctor's daughter Chan (Li Man). With all the scheming and ulterior motives going back and forth it all hits the fan when the Emperor's convoy is attacked by assassins. From here secrets come to light through death and battle as the assassins force both sides' hands. The family relations and dynasty lore may be too complicated to understand in one viewing but that is often the case with these kinds of historical epics especially in a foreign language. Still the elements are beautiful to watch and once it becomes a war movie the threat of boredom is lifted. Curse of the Golden Flower offers traditional epic performances. Gong Li’s Empress may be bitter in servitude angry in conspiracy or pained with tragedy but it's all big dramatics. Few can do it better than Gong. The lavish emotional material is her forte and this is another tragic epic in which she can shine. Chow Yun-Fat does his stoic thing. What makes him the ultimate badass action hero also suits him well as a plotting monarch. Some range of issues face his character but he greets them with a strong even-keeled temper only breaking down in pivotal moments. The assassins serve as a singular character too. They move so gracefully as a single unit you don't even need to see who's under the masks to get the personality of this unstoppable killing machine. Other characters just serve as pawns in the plot. There's the whiny sissy son and lovelorn kids all convincing as they serve their purposes in Gong and Chow's chess game. Curse of the Golden Flower seems to be a culmination of all of director Zhang Yimou's work. It includes period drama with epic tragic themes and even more newfangled martial arts action since his last effort Hero. He also uses color schemes to reflect emotion. Superficial gold barely masks the palace corruption and forest greens welcome in the change brought by the assassins. Golden Flower does seems a tad melodramatic. But the Chinese language is based on subtle sound differences and going over the top may be the only way to convey it. It certainly works for a political intrigue family drama. The best parts of the film are the assassin attacks big but full of nuance. The dark figures flow gracefully through the scenes seeming to defy gravity but not in a Crouching Tiger sort of way. Their acrobatic antics are based on some level of physics at least as the film establishes the group. It's never just clanking swords there's always some careful tactics to enjoy. Combining so many aspects masterfully Curse of the Golden Flower could be Zhang's masterwork.
Finding Nemo, Pixar Animation Studios' little movie about a fish, netted a briny $70.6 million* take at the box office this weekend, posting the best opening ever for an animated film. The feature, distributed by Walt Disney Co., also became Disney and Pixar's fifth No.1 opening and the biggest opening for any Disney film--live or animated.
Finding Nemo bumped Disney and Pixar's previous No. 1 opener Monsters, Inc., which opened in November 2001 to the tune of $62.5 million. The studios' three other collaborations also debuted at the top of the box office, including Toy Story 2, which opened in November 1995 with $57.3 million, followed by A Bug's Life, which premiered with $33.1 million in November 1998. Toy Story, their first project, opened in November 1995 with $ 29.1 million.
Together, Disney and Pixar's computer animated films have generated ticket sales totaling more than $1.7 billion worldwide.
Driven by Finding Nemo and Bruce Almighty, the top 12 films this weekend grossed $165 million--up more than 41 percent from this time last year.
THE TOP TEN
Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar Animation Studios' G rated computer-animated feature Finding Nemo debuted at the top of the box office this weekend with an ESTIMATED take of $70.6 million at 3,374 theaters. Its $20,925 per theater average was the highest of any film playing this week.
The animated pic revolves around a clownfish in the Great Barrier Reef who is looking for his son, Nemo.
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.
Universal Pictures' PG-13 Bruce Almighty dropped a notch to No. 2 in its second week with an ESTIMATED $35.6 million (-48%) at 3,492 theaters (+9 theaters; $10,195 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $135.7 million.
Directed by Tom Shadyac, it stars Carrey, Jennifer Aniston and Morgan Freeman.
Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated actioner The Italian Job debuted in third place with an ESTIMATED $19.3 million at 2,633 theaters with an impressive $7,330 per theater average.
In the movie, a mastermind thief and his crew pull off what they think is an amazing gold bullion heist--but one of them turns out to be a double-crosser.
Directed by F. Gary Gray, it stars Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Seth Green, Mos Def and Edward Norton.
Warner Bros.' R rated sci-fi sequel The Matrix Reloaded came in fourth in its third week with an ESTIMATED $15 million (-62%) at 3,453 theaters (-150 theaters; $4,356 per theater). Its cume is approximately $232 million.
Directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, it stars Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving.
Sony Pictures' PG-rated Daddy Day Care dropped to No. 5 in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $6.8 million (-51%) at 3,128 theaters (-344 theaters; $2,174 per theater). Its cume is approximately $81.9 million and headed for the $100 million mark.
Directed by Steve Carr, it stars Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Steve Zahn, Regina King and Anjelica Huston.
Twentieth Century Fox's comic book sequel X2: X-Men United moved down two spots to sixth place in its fifth week of release with an ESTIMATED $5 million (-52%) at 2,553 theaters (-534 theaters; $1,984 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $199.2 million.
Directed by Bryan Singer, it stars Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Twentieth Century Fox's R rated horror thriller Wrong Turn premiered in seventh place with an ESTIMATED $5 million in 1,615 theaters with a decent $3,102 per theater average.
The film revolves around a group that gets stranded on a dirt road deep in the wood of West Virginia and faces a horrific fate at the hands of gruesome mountain men.
Directed by Rob Schmidt, it stars Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Jeremy Sisto.
Warner Bros.' PG-13 The In-Laws dropped three notches to No. 8 in its second week with an ESTIMATED $3.6 million (-50%) in 2,652 theaters (unchanged; $3,443 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $14.4 million.
Directed by Andrew Fleming, it stars Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Candice Bergen, Ryan Reynolds and Lindsay Sloane.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13 romantic comedy Down With Love came in ninth with an ESTIMATED $1.5 million (-61%) in 1,300 theaters (-818 theaters; $1,212 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.1 million.
Directed by Peyton Reed, it stars Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor and David Hyde Pierce.
Fox Searchlight's PC-13 rated comedy Bend It Like Beckham made it back to the Top 10 this week with an estimated $1 million (-41%) at 491 theaters (-31 theaters; $2,088 per theater). Its cume is approximately $19.1 million.
Directed by Gurinder Chadha, it stars Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
MGM and United Arists' PG rated drama Together debuted in limited release to an ESTIMATED $66,000 in six theaters with a $11,000 per theater average.
The film revolves around a 13-year-old music prodigy and his father, a chef who has put all of his hopes on his son's success. Together they set out for Beijing so the boy can further his studies.
Directed by Chen Kaige, it stars Tang Yun, Liu Peiqui, Chen Hong and Wang Zhiwen.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $165.4 million, up 5.7 percent from last week when they totaled $156.9 million.
The Top 12 were up a whopping 41.7 percent from last year when they totaled $116.7 million.
Last year, Paramount's PG-13 rated Sum of All Fears premiered at the top of the box office with $31.1 million at 3,183 theaters ($9,795 per theater); Fox's PG rated Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones came in second in its third week with $21 million at 3,161 theaters ($6,644 per theater); and Sony's PG-13 rated Spider-Man came in third in its fifth week with $14.3 million at 3,646 theaters ($3,927 per theater).
Winners of the second annual Tribeca Film Festival were announced at the Stuyvesant High School Auditorium in Tribeca Sunday, with French director Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi taking the prize for emerging narrative feature filmmaker for her Italo-French comedy, It's Easier For a Camel.... The comedy revolves around a walthy woman, Frederica, whose money is keeping her a prisoner rather than giving her a life of ease.
The French director also stars in the pic and walked away with best actress honors, Variety reports. Tedeschi collected a $25,000 prize for her film plus six months of services from PMK/HBH Public Relations.
Igor Bares won the actor category for his role in Some Secrets, along with Ohad Knoller in the Israeli army love story Yossi & Jagger.
Tribeca also honored Li Yang's tale of Chinese mine workers, Blind Shaft, which won the Silver Bear award at Berlin earlier this year.
In the documentary category, Mohamed Zran won the prize for emerging documentary feature filmmaker for Song for the Millennium. The prize includes $25,000 and six months of services from PR firm PMK/HBH.
Prize for documentaries by directors with two or less previous films went to Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Hugo Berkeley for A Normal Life, with honorable mentions going to Laura Gabbert's Sunset Story and Francesca Comencini for Carlo Giuliani, a Boy.
For directors with more than two previous features, Moslem Mansouri won for Trial with Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill picking up an honorable mention for Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer.
The winners picked up $25,000 worth of services from Technicolor Creative Services New York.
The documentary short film award went to Harvey Wang for Milton Rogovin: The Forgotten Ones.
Lars Daniel Krutzkoff Jacobsen won the narrative short film category with Precious Moments, and Richard Linklater's Live From Shava's Dance Floor received a special citation.
The Budweiser/TriggerStreet.com audience award for feature film went to the documentary by David G. Berger, Holly Maxson and Kate Hirson, Keeping Time: The Life, Music & Photographs of Milt Hinton and Chen Kaige for Together. Both films will share the $25,000 prize.
The MTV Films Award for student visionary film went to Enrico Kahn for Make Up.
Presenters at this year's festival included Martin Scorsese, Kevin Spacey, Whoopi Goldberg, Parker Posey, Nora Ephron, Sheila Nevins, Fisher Stevens and Sandra Bernhard.