Poor Donna Keppel (Brittany Snow). Some years back her parents and brother were slaughtered by Richard Fenton (Jonathan Schaech) a teacher who had developed a psychotic fixation on her. Richard went to an insane asylum but he broke out and now he’s back in town just in time for Prom Night where he resumes his pursuit of Donna and knocks off some of her friends for good measure. Bringing up the rear is dogged Detective Winn (Idris Elba) desperately trying to nail Fenton as the body count mounts. Sooner or later--and it’s much later unfortunately--Donna will come face to face with Fenton one last time. With characters as one-dimensional and dumb as these there’s not much the cast can do except stand around in their prom outfits waiting to get killed off. As the deranged killer Schaech stares glares and skulks around. Leading lady Snow widens her eyes and worries accordingly throughout while Elba tries to inject a little intensity into the stock role of the cop on the case. Working from a bad screenplay by J.S. Cardone first-time helmer Nelson McCormick displays little enthusiasm--either for the genre or for this particular film. The scare tactics are hackneyed and usually involve characters surprising each other--a gag that gets really old really quickly. When one character mutters “This is getting silly. Enough already ” we couldn’t agree more. And we’d add “boring” to that statement. It should be noted however that there’s an awfully high body count for a film rated PG-13 even if the film isn’t as bloody as one might expect. McCormick and Cardone have re-teamed on the upcoming remake of The Stepfather and if their collaboration here is any indication horror fans may have reason to be afraid--very afraid.
September 16, 2005 5:05am EST
The socially inept Elizabeth Masterson (Reese Witherspoon) is a workaholic doctor who never leaves the hospital. Her married sister Abby (Dina Waters) tries in vain to set up with a good man to no avail. But fate is about to intervene. On her way home from a long shift Elizabeth gets into a head-on collision with a semi-truck and suddenly the lines between life and death are blurred. Jumping forward we meet David Abbott (Mark Ruffalo) a guy wallowing in self-pity from the death of his wife two years earlier who to find some solitude moves into a fabulous furnished apartment. What he doesn't know is the previous tenant hasn't left not really. That's right it was Elizabeth's apartment and for whatever reason (seriously they don't entirely explain it) Elizabeth--or her spirit I guess--hasn't grasped the idea that she is in well limbo. Only David can see her of course as she yells at him for leaving sweat rings on the coffee table but Elizabeth eventually grows on him. She elicits his help in finding out what happened to her and with a little help from the eccentric Darryl (Jon Heder) a bookstore employee who has the gift for sensing spirits David and Elizabeth find that heaven and earth are not really that far apart.
As our romantic pair Witherspoon and Ruffalo do an adequate job adhering to the staid romantic comedy formula. Witherspoon is one of the more consistent comedic actresses these days and has the sweet but controlling ingénue routine down to a science. But it may be time for her to take a break from the standard fare and head back to the indies getting down and dirty like she did in Election. Ruffalo does a pretty impressive job for his second time as the romantic lead. As he did with 13 Going on 30 Ruffalo at least tries to add some quirky twists to a boring character. Still he should also probably stick to showcasing his dramatic acting talent in cool indies much like he did in You Can Count on Me. It's Heaven's side characters who have all the fun. Waters (The Haunted Mansion) does a nice turn as the caring sister who's own hectic life as a mother of two rambunctious kids always seems to interfere with what she's doing. Donal Logue (TV's Grounded For Life) as David's therapist best friend too has a fun time yuking it up. But the real standout in an otherwise dull universe is Napoleon Dynamite himself Jon Heder in his second feature film. He's still a geek but at least this time he's a mystical one who knows a thing or two about wandering spirits. Of course he also gets the best lines: "I'm 99.9 percent parched here. I need a cola." I'm going to use that one from now on.
As the director of the satirical Mean Girls and the cutesy Freaky Friday Mark Waters may be out of his element with an out and out romantic comedy. The initial idea about a women whose stuck in the spirit world until she finds the true love she never sought after in life is somewhat intriguing. But rather than play with that the film just ends up your standard romantic comedy while also stealing from other films such as Ghost and The Sixth Sense. Just Like Heaven also has some serious logistical flaws. For example seeing how Elizabeth is supposed to be a ghost--that she can't touch anything tangible and can walk through walls tables and just about anything else--she is later seen laying on top of a table. It doesn't make sense as to how she can walk through it at one moment and be on it the next. And the fact you are paying attention to these inconsistencies means you just aren't caring that much about the rest of the film.
For a few years in the '60s and '70s producer Gerry Anderson made "supermarionation" all the rage in the world of British children's television. His stop-motion puppets starred in a number of sci-fi adventure series most memorably Thunderbirds which followed the exploits of International Rescue -- a team comprised of ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his sons. Based out of their secret fortress on Treasure Island the Tracys (aided by lovely secret agent Lady Penelope) used their amazing rocket-powered vehicles to prevent disasters and save lives around the world. Now 40 years after Thunderbirds' TV debut Star Trek vet Jonathan Frakes has brought Anderson's characters to life on the big screen. Front and center is youngest son Alan Tracy (Brady Corbet) who dreams of the day he too can pilot one of his family's fab ships and lead missions. But first he has to prove himself to his father Jeff (Bill Paxton). That opportunity comes sooner than either expects when mysterious villain The Hood (Ben Kingsley) strands Jeff and the older Tracy boys in space and attacks Treasure Island. With only his friends Tintin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) and Fermat (Soren Fulton) to help him Alan has to grow up quickly if he wants to save his family ... and the world!
It would be easy to mock several of the performances in Thunderbirds-- to chide Paxton for his earnest seriousness as Tracy patriarch Jeff to dismiss Corbet's angst-tinged eagerness as Alan to roll your eyes at Kingsley's over-the-top mystical fierceness as The Hood and to wince at Fulton and Anthony Edwards' nerdy stuttering as science whizzes Fermat and his dad Brains. But actors are only as good as their script and the one Frakes has given his cast (courtesy of screenwriters William Osborne and Michael McCullers) is weak and clichéd at best filled with after-school-special-worthy lessons for Alan to learn. "You can't save everyone " Jeff tells his son somberly and even Tintin has a moral for her crush when he's feeling selfish and indulging in self-pity: "This is hard on all of us Alan." Talk about insight! What makes it even more frustrating is knowing that the actors are capable of much more even the kids: Both Corbet and Hudgens did well with supporting roles in Thirteen. Thunderbirds' only real bright spot is Sophia Myles as Lady Penelope. A cross between Reese Witherspoon's Elle in Legally Blonde and Jennifer Garner's Sydney on Alias Myles' Lady P doesn't let her pink couture wardrobe prevent her from coolly kicking ass when the situation demands it. Attended by her droll driver/man-of-all-trades Parker (Ron Cook) Lady Penelope is a fresh feisty heroine with all of the film's best lines -- and the coolest car to boot.
Frakes cut his directorial teeth on episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and his first feature film was Star Trek: First Contact so he would seem like a natural choice to bring a cult sci-fi TV show to the big screen. Unfortunately while he does an admirable job re-creating (and improving on) the original Thunderbirds' mod sets cool ships and special effects (which are fine if a bit more TV-sized than summer blockbustery) Frakes can't seem to decide who his audience is. If he was aiming at grown-ups who remember the show fondly from their own childhood he should have embraced the source material's campiness (à la Starsky and Hutch) rather than restricting it to the Tracys' plastic Barbie-like furniture and Lady P's bouffant hairdo. If on the other hand Frakes was hoping to entertain today's kids he should have really reinvented the show for a 21st-century world (à la Stephen Hopkins'1998 Lost in Space) rather than clinging to the '60s references As it is he's stuck somewhere in the middle leaving adults bored during the kids-on-an-adventure bits and children mystified by the handful of jokes aimed at their parents.
Swordfish was the weekend's biggest catch in this weekend's choppy box office waters.
In a weekend marked by surprisingly large percentage declines across the board, Swordfish outperformed expectations. The Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow film flew much higher on Hollywood's radar screen than insiders had anticipated.
Overall, key films grossed about $94 million, down sharply by over 22% from last week and up only a marginal 1.4% from last year. Insiders attributed the hefty percentage declines this weekend to a number of possible factors, including competition from televised basketball and hockey playoffs, widespread good weather and a concentration of high school proms.
"It was interesting to see the number of graduations and proms that actually fell on this weekend while normally they're spread out a little," one top distributor pointed out. "I think people were tied up with a lot of family events this weekend. The weather back East was fantastic. And you had the NBA game on Friday and again today and you had the final game of the hockey playoffs, Game Seven, on Saturday. It was just a combination of things. Never is there one thing -- unless it's the Super Bowl -- that impacts the business like this. And that's just a one day thing.
"To give you an idea, on Friday of the pictures in the marketplace already, other than the two new pictures (that opened), all the pictures were off 47 percent (on average) on Friday night and off 51 percent (on average) on Saturday. That's way out of line from the norms. Most of the time you don't see one weekend dive so much from, like, the first weekend in June to the second weekend in June."
Nonetheless, the weekend saw Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures' R rated action drama Swordfish made a big first place splash with a tasty ESTIMATED $18.43 million at 2,678 theaters ($6,882 per theater).
Swordfish's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Directed by Dominic Sena and produced by Joel Silver and Jonathan Krane, it stars John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Don Cheadle.
Reflecting on how well Swordfish kicked off, Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning, "You have to just take a look at the demographics out there. All these movies were going after different audiences than ours. No question about it, the tracking once again proves that it doesn't always work. We came through. We're very, very happy about it. Now we're focusing on our second week."
Considering the competition from televised sports and a marketplace crowded with other films -- including DreamWorks' blockbuster Shrek, which many observers were predicting would move up from second place to capture top honors this weekend -- Fellman noted, "I think we beat the odds. We won the weekend certainly despite the NBA finals, which certainly hurt the box office on Friday and will again on Sunday."
Audience reaction, he added, "was really terrific. Our exits were great. The audience was 56% male and 44% female and they liked the movie equally, so that's very nice. This is the seventh motion picture in a row produced byJoel Silver that opened Number One in the marketplace.
"The studio's thrilled. It's nice to be in the John Travolta business when he's hot. We had a great cast (besides Travoltawith) Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Don Cheadle. These guys did a good job. And Dominic Sena made a good movie. And, of course, we have our production partners Village Roadshow in this movie, who deserve a tip of the hat."
Swordfish, Fellman said, "is John's third largest opening in his career. Face/Off is his biggest opening at $23.3 million. The General's Daughter is his second biggest at $22.3 million. Michael did $17 million, so this comes in (third). If you look at the (marketplace) for those movies in those days, there wasn't the enormous amount of competition the same weeks. They were generally free of competition. So (with Swordfish doing so well with a lot of competition now), it shows some strength for the movie."
As to where Swordfish might be heading, Fellman said it's too early to say at this point: "I think you need to sit back a little and digest the next weekend before we make predictions. We're off and running. It's a great opening for Warner Bros. and our summer. Our next movie is A.I. from Steven Spielberg and then we have also a terrific movie on July Fourth called Cats & Dogs.
"We're looking forward to a huge year and, of course, with Harry Potter (in November) and Oceans 11 (in December) and Majestic at Christmas and Collateral Damage (in October) and Training Day (in September), we're in good shape."
DreamWorks' PG rated computer animated blockbuster Shrek held on to second place in its fourth week, continuing to show great legs with an ESTIMATED $17.1 million (-39%) at 3,715 theaters (+54 theaters; $4,602 per theater). Its cume is approximately $176.6 million on its way to $250-270 million.
With its move up to 3,715 playdates, DreamWorks set a record for the largest number of locations any film has ever played in, beating the record set last year by Paramount's Mission: Impossible 2 with 3,669 locations.
Directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, its voice talents include Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow.
"Two of the top five," DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning, noting that the studio was very happy about its good showing with both Shrek and its opening of Evolution. "With that kind of weekend (where everything was down so much), we're actually pretty happy with both these numbers."
Buena Vista/Touchstone and Jerry Bruckheimer Films' PG-13 rated three hour epic action romance Pearl Harbor dropped two fathoms to third place in its third weekend with a less lively $14.9 million (-50%) at 3,255 theaters (+41 theaters; $4,565 per theater). Its cume is approximately $144.1 million, heading for $200 million.
Directed by Michael Bay, Pearl was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay and written by Randall Wallace. Its extensive cast is led by Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight and Alec Baldwin.
"It appears that we're going to play on the same exact formula that Lost World did," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "Lost World was off 46-point-something percent and we're off 49.7 percent. It pretty much says that whatever the tracking of that particular movie was, that's the format we're going to find. Obviously, it takes you into the $200 millions."
Viane noted that there's a lot of competition in the marketplace from other films and that, "Part of it this weekend is that you've got (sports competition from) the Lakers on Friday and Sunday and you had the probably the first good weather in the East. But everybody was in that ballgame, so we're all equal (in terms of how it impacted)."
Viane pointed out that BV was also very pleased with its launch this weekend of Disney's PG rated animated adventure Atlantis in exclusive engagements in New York and Los Angeles. Atlantis did a staggering ESTIMATED $0.34 million at 2 theaters ($170,794 per theater).
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, its voice talents include Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Cree Summer and Leonard Nimoy.
"What can I say other than, 'What a hell of a start?'" Viane observed.
Asked why BV had taken the exclusive engagements opening route with Atlantis that it had used years ago with its animated feature, Viane explained, "One of the greatest sales tools that a team has is when a movie plays really well. We had a sense that we'd get some really good critical reviews -- like Ebert and Roeper both gave it two thumbs up. We know the audience loves it. Any time you can get the people talking about your movie, then I think you've hit a home run. We knew very early on how much the public enjoys the movie. So we just decided to take a page out of our past and recreate it. It goes wide this Friday. I would imagine we'll approach 3,000 runs."
DreamWorks' and Columbia's PG-13 rated sci-fi comedy Evolution kicked off strongly in fourth place with a happy ESTIMATED $13.2 million at 2,611 theaters ($5,056 per theater).
Directed by Ivan Reitman, it stars David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, Seann William Scott and Julianne Moore.
"Better than the tracking," DreamWorks' Jim Tharp said, noting that the film hadn't been expected to open this well. "And in a down weekend. We're pretty happy with the numbers based on the weekend that we're in."
Columbia's release of Revolution Studios PG-13 youth appeal comedy The Animal fell sharply in its second weekend, down two slots to fifth place with a quieter ESTIMATED $9.8 million (-50%) at 2,788 theaters (theater count unchanged; $3,515 per theater). The film, which only cost $22 million to make, has a cume of approximately $35.8 million and is heading for $60-70 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Luke Greenfield, it stars Rob Schneider.
"I think the drops (this weekend) were universally higher than what everyone would have liked," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
"I think we can safely attribute that (to) the lovely weather that almost seems for the first time to be crossing the country this weekend. I think everybody lost a few points due to the weather this weekend."
20th Century Fox's PG-13 rated romantic musical drama Moulin Rouge slid two notches in its fourth week (its second in wide release) with an okay ESTIMATED $7.62 million (-44%) at 2,283 theaters (+4 theaters; $3,336 per theater). Its cume is approximately $27.5 million.
Directed by Baz Luhrmann, it stars Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.
"Everybody (is down a lot this weekend). I'd be killing myself if it was only us," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said Sunday morning, pointing to some even steeper declines than Moulin's. "Otherwise, I'd be going 'Geez! 44 percent!' I think it's just the weekend. In order to expand the market for another $35 million to take in Swordfish and Evolution, everybody took a hit."
Is Moulin's 44 percent drop cause for alarm? "I really don't think so," Snyder replied. "What it's saying it's the end of is the weak sister theaters that we've had. They'll be disappearing quickly. But where this picture is working, it's still got some great numbers. The individual numbers are terrific. What you're finding in cities is one run is absolutely gangbusters, kicking butt -- usually in the most sophisticated zone -- and the blue collar zones are (not nearly as good). So we'll end up losing those and keeping the solid ones. We've got a long way to go."
MGM's PG-13 comedy What's The Worst that Could Happen? tumbled two pegs to seventh place in its second weekend with a less funny ESTIMATED $5.4 million (-58%) at 2,675 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,019 per theater). Its cume is approximately $22.2 million.
Directed by Sam Weisman, it stars Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito.
Universal's PG-13 rated adventure blockbuster sequel The Mummy Returns fell three pegs to eighth place in its sixth week with an okay ESTIMATED $4.15 million (-46%) at 2,539 theaters (-665 theaters; $1,635 per theater). Its cume is approximately $188.2 million, heading for $200 million in domestic theaters.
Written and directed by Stephen Sommers, Mummy stars Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz and features an appearance by wrestling star The Rock.
Columbia's PG-13 rated youth appeal adventure A Knight's Tale slid two notches to ninth place in its fifth week with a calm ESTIMATED $1.7 million (-50%) at 1,850 theaters (-591 theaters; $919 per theater). Tale, which cost only $41 million to produce, has a cume of approximately $52.7 million and is heading for $60 million in domestic theaters.
Written and directed by Brian Helgeland, Tale stars Heath Ledger.
Rounding out the Top Ten was the R rated romantic comedy Bridget Jones's Diary from Miramax Films, Universal Pictures, StudioCanal and Working Title, down two rungs in its ninth week with a quiet ESTIMATED $1.2 million (-40%) at 975 theaters (-326 theaters; $1,230 per theater). Its cume is approximately $67.4 million, heading for $70 million in domestic theaters.
Having only cost about $25 million to produce, Bridget will be very profitable.
Directed by Sharon Maguire, Bridget stars Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Fine Line Features' R rated comedy The Anniversary Party to an encouraging ESTIMATED $0.16 million at 11 theaters ($14,790 per theater).
Written and directed by Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh, its ensemble cast includes Jane Adams, Jennifer Beals, Phoebe Cates, Alan Cumming, Kevin Kline, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gwyneth Paltrow, Parker Posey and John C. Reilly.
Paramount Classics' romantic drama Bride of the Wind opened to an okay ESTIMATED $0.035 million at 8 theaters ($4,420 per theater).
Directed by Bruce Beresford, it stars Sarah Wynter, Jonathan Pryce and Vincent Perez.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front, this weekend saw Miramax's R rated French thriller With a Friend Like Harry... continue to widen in its eighth week with an okay ESTIMATED $0.19 million (-3%) at 99 theaters (+28 theaters; $1,865 per theater). Its North American cume is approximately $2.1 million.
Harry is being released under Miramax's French film banner Miramax Zoe.
Directed by Dominik Moll, it stars Laurent Lucas, Sergi Lopez, Mathilde Seigner and Sophie Guillemin.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $94.11 million, up a marginal 1.38% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $92.83 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down about 22.23% from last weekend this year when key films took in $121.02 million.
Last year, Buena Vista's opening week of Gone In 60 Seconds was first with $25.34 million at 3,006 theaters ($8,428 per theater; and Paramount's third week of Mission: Impossible 2 was second with $17.23 million at 3,669 theaters ($4,696 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $42.5 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $35.5 million.
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