Clay Beresford (Hayden Christensen) has it all: wealth power good looks and a gorgeous fiancée Sam (Jessica Alba). Unfortunately he’s also got a weak heart and it’s only a matter of time before circumstances compel him to go under the knife. Although given anesthesia during the operation Clay is still able to feel pain and hear the doctors around him a situation made infinitely worse when he comes to realize that he is the victim of a nefarious conspiracy to bilk him of his fortune. He’s worth much more dead than alive but to whom? Clay’s (semi-)out-of-body experience allows him--and the film--to travel backwards in time as he tries to piece together clues to the conspiracy that now holds him in its power. The medical aspects of the story are dicey at best but the intent of this sort of film is to try and fool the audience with each plot twist. It’s essentially a whodunit in reverse. Awake’s got a great cast with everyone (except Christensen) occupying the role of red herring at one time or another--and clearly having a good time chewing up the scenery. Christensen’s the straight man here a role he fills with a relaxed charisma and a good amount of empathy. Alba looking absolutely dynamite is the sort of fiancée that any red-blooded male would risk a coronary for. If looks could kill Alba would knock ‘em dead--which just might be a hint or still another red herring. The surgical team includes such reliable stalwarts as Terrence Howard Fisher Stevens (also an executive producer of the film) and Christopher McDonald--many of whom have played heavies before all the better to try and fool the viewer. Lena Olin no slouch in the beauty department herself is cast to type as Clay’s over-protective mother. It’s a role she could play in her sleep but Olin’s far too resourceful an actress not to bring a little something extra to the party. Awake marks the feature debut of writer/director Joby Harold who overreaches from time to time with the twists but who’s always in there swinging. Awake may be far-fetched sometimes to the point of absurdity but it’s not a lazy film. Harold also has the added bonus of Oscar-winning cinematographer Russell Carpenter on his team who brings a great visual sense to the film. The hospital scenes filmed at Bellevue are appropriately clammy and creepy--which really lend suspense to the proceedings as silly as they sometimes are. It’ll be interesting to see what Harold next has up his sleeve. Awake is very reminiscent of the B-movies of yesteryear preying on a common fear--in this case surgery--and attempting to milk it to maximum effect. It doesn’t add up to a whole lot but it’s not bad.
Picking up 10 years since 1997’s Henry Fool we see that struggling writer Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan) has fled the country and is presumably dead leaving his estranged wife Fay Grim (Parker Posey) to fend for herself. She is now using her maiden name trying to live a normal life as a single mother. Fay’s poet laureate brother Simon (James Urbaniak) is in jail for aiding and abetting Henry while his publisher (Chuck Montgomery) is putting the moves on Fay. But then the CIA shows up on Fay’s doorstep with suspicions Henry may still alive and believe the clues to his whereabouts may be in his diaries. Agent Fulbright (Jeff Goldblum) sends Fay on a spy mission to obtain said diaries and things get further complicated as more quirky characters weave in and out of Fay's journey. It might be wise to rent Henry Fool before seeing Fay Grim just so you can remind yourself about these characters and have a better understanding. Everyone is being idiosyncratic on purpose but not in an unnatural way because the characters aren't too far off from the performers' distinct personalities. Posey is naturally off kilter overwhelmed by her surroundings whether as a character in a movie or an actor navigating red carpets and press junkets. As a woman left in the lurch by her husband and thrust into international espionage she’s perfect. Goldblum speaks with his usual frazzled authority. The other lesser known personalities fill their roles effectively as well. Urbaniak is just socially awkward enough you can see why he'd be the chump but smart enough to be ultimately helpful. Montgomery is an executive type who relishes his involvement in the intrigue. As Fay's son Liam Aiken plays the loner kid not quite Goth but a disaffected rebel nonetheless. Fay also encounters plenty of European spy types who bring a certain level of campiness to the espionage genre. You might feel left out if you haven't seen Henry Fool. They manage to fill in the Henry Fool backstory without a lot of exposition but there is definitely something missing. Then again so what if it might all be a little confusing? Figuring out the details is not important it’s the ride that counts. Being ultimately quirky himself indie director Hal Hartley manages to keep the pace moving throughout Fay Grim and all of the elements seem to tie in. The breezy dialogue is a treat. And for being an international adventure on a budget the film never feels cheap. Presenting chases and gunfights as a series of still shots may avoid actually staging elaborate action sequences but it's also more interesting to watch than the same old shoot 'em ups. Nobody is going to out-Woo John Woo so having this device is better. At two hours it does get a bit overwhelming to keep up but there are worse places to be stuck for 120 minutes.
Hollywood's summer, which came in like a lion with Spider-Man in early May, went out like a lamb over Labor Day weekend with ticket sales down nearly 12 percent from last year.
Nonetheless, there were strong holiday weekend ticket sales for two of the summer's big successes -- Signs and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Both pictures have performed very considerably better than insiders ever expected.
Signs, the summer's last mega-blockbuster to arrive, remained posted in first place with $15.8 million for four days. It is this summer's only film to place first for three weeks. Although no film did it consecutively, Signs was number one its opening weekend and then returned to the top spot in weekends four and five. With its cume now over $194 million and heading for $225 million,Signs ranks as Mel Gibson's biggest grossing film ever, eclipsing What Women Want with $182.5 million.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the summer's sleeper hit, added 290 engagements and soared to second place with $14.1 million. Made for only about $5 million, its cume is now $81.5 million and on its way to an enormously profitable $100 million.
XXX nailed down third place with $12.6 million. feardotcom logged on quietly in fourth place with $6.6 million. Austin Powers in Goldmember rounded out the top five with $6.5 million.
With no new openings to drive ticket sales, key films -- those grossing $500,000 or more -- fell 11.8 percent from last year with $100.1 million for four days versus $113.5 million last Labor Day weekend. This was the seventh consecutive weekend in which the marketplace was down compared to last year.
Hollywood was happy to see that Sunday's weather map showed rain up and down the East Coast as well as along the Gulf Coast and in parts of the mid-west. That could give Sunday ticket sales across the board a boost and help raise today's estimates a notch when they are fine tuned Monday.
THE TOP TEN
Today's grosses are for the four day holiday period from Friday through Monday and reflect industry estimates circulating Sunday morning. Studios will announce their four day estimates Monday and will release final figures Tuesday. Percentage comparisons are not indicated today because the prior weekend was a regular three day weekend.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13 rated supernatural thriller blockbuster Signs held solidly atop the chart in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $15.8 million at 3,437 theaters (-16 theaters; $4,597 per theater). Its cume is approximately $194.2 million, heading for $225 million. (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $12.9 million.)
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, it stars Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.
"By the way, the last movie to be number one in its fifth week was The Sixth Sense," a spokesperson for BV pointed out Sunday morning. Sixth Sense, of course, was also directed by Shyamalan.
"It's remarkable to think we finally have a picture this summer that was number one for three weeks," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "Everything else seems to have had two weeks and then got bumped off. We only had one week (in first place) and then we came back and picked up two more. The legs of this picture really speak volumes for how much the public likes the movie.
"Yesterday (Saturday), the picture became Mel Gibson's highest grossing film ever. And we still have probably $30 million worth of gross left. What Women Want did (about) $182 million. That as Mel's biggest picture."
Focusing on Signs' success, Viane observed, "It's the movie. The movie is playing great and the audience is responding that way. There's not many pictures that come into a Labor Day weekend and actually go up in gross over the previous weekend and this is one of them."
IFC Films' release of Gold Circle Films and HBO's PG rated romantic comedy sleeper hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding continued to expand in its 20th week, rising two pegs to second place with an amazingly hot ESTIMATED $14.13 million at 1,619 theaters (+290 theaters; $8,727 per theater). Its cume is approximately $81.9 million, heading for $100 million or more in domestic theaters. (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $11.1 million.)
Wedding's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Directed by Joel Zwick, it stars Nia Vardalos and John Corbett.
Revolution Studios and Columbia's PG-13 rated action adventure thriller XXX slipped one notch to third place in its fourth week with a still muscular ESTIMATED $12.6 million at 3,536 theaters (+19 theaters; $3,550 per theater). Its cume is approximately $123.3 million. (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $10.2 million.)
Directed by Rob Cohen and produced by Neal H. Moritz, it stars Vin Diesel, Asia Argento and Marton Csokas.
MDP Worldwide's R rated horror film feardotcom opened in fourth place to a weak ESTIMATED $6.6 million at 2,550 theaters ($2,588 per theater). (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $5.6 million.)
Directed by William Malone, it stars Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone and Stephen Rea. It was produced by Moshe Diamant and Limor Diamant and executive produced by Elie Samaha, Andrew Stevens, David Saunders, Mark Damon, Rudy Cohen, Frank Hubner and Romain Schroeder.
feardotcom is being distributed by Warner Bros. through its overall rent-a-system deal with Samaha's Franchise Films.
New Line's PG-13 rated comedy sequel Austin Powers in Goldmember rose two rungs to fifth place in its sixth week with a less amusing ESTIMATED $6.5 million at 2,506 theaters (-299 theaters; $2,594 per theater). Its cume is approximately $202.9 million. (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $5.2 million.)
Directed by Jay Roach, it stars Mike Myers, Beyonce Knowles and Michael Caine.
Miramax/Dimension Films' PG rated family comedy sequel Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams slipped three pegs to sixth place in its fourth week with a slow ESTIMATED $6.3 million at 3,250 theaters (-57 theaters; $1,938 per theater). Its cume is approximately $68.1 million. (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $5.3 million.)
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, it stars Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino.
Universal and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13 rated romantic surfer girl comedy Blue Crush fell two waves to seventh place in its third week with a less sexy ESTIMATED $5.23 million at 2,820 theaters (-195 theaters; $1,855 per theater). Its cume is approximately $34.4 million.
Directed by John Stockwell and produced by Brian Grazer and Karen Kehela, it stars Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis, Sanoe Lake and Mika Boorem.
Paramount and Mandalay's PG-13 rated comedy Serving Sara dropped two posts to eighth place in its second week with an unfunny ESTIMATED $4.4 million at 2,174 theaters ($2,045 per theater). Its cume is approximately $12.0 million.
Directed by Reginald Hudlin, it stars Matthew Perry and Elizabeth Hurley.
Fox Searchlight Pictures' R rated comedy The Good Girl went wider in its fourth week and placed ninth with a still impressive ESTIMATED $3.5 million at 667 theaters (+479 theaters; $5,247 per theater). Its cume is approximately $7.1 million. (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $2.7 million.)
Directed by Miguel Arteta, it stars Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal and John C. Reilly.
"It's a terrific expansion," Fox Searchlight distribution president Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning. "The film is playing very well across the country in large and small cities, suburban and urban areas. I think people are intrigued by the nature of the story. It has hilarious moments and it also has some dark moments and some very touching family and very personal moments.
"It's a very distinctive film that people have interest in. The ensemble performances of Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal and the rest of the cast really have generated a lot of word of mouth."
Based on Sunday morning estimates there was a close race for tenth place. DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox's R rated adult appeal drama Road To Perdition, which was 11th last week, tied for tenth place in its eighth week with an okay ESTIMATED $3.1 million at 1,763 theaters (-100 theaters; $1,758 per theater). Its cume is approximately $98.1 million. (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $2.4 million.)
Directed by Sam Mendes, it stars Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law.
Fox Searchlight Pictures' R rated thriller One Hour Photo, which began expanding in its second week, tied for tenth place with a very encouraging ESTIMATED $3.1 million at 163 theaters ($19,018 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.6 million. (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $2.5 million.)
Written and directed by Mark Romanek, it stars Robin Williams.
"This is another very distinctive film, a very singular vision of the writer-director Mark Romanek," Fox Searchlight's Stephen Gilula said. "He got a terrific performance out of Robin Williams. It has clearly captivated the public and was done largely with word of mouth. We haven't done much in advertising. But I think that (its success reflects) Robin Williams' performance, which has been talked about a lot, combined with a very, very compelling concept -- that the man that develops your photos could be watching you and looking at your life. Everyone understands that concept. It's a very mesmerizing performance and a very chilling, creepy movie.
"Both The Good Girl and One Hour Photo really stand out at the end of summer. The big movies have all played and if you want to go out and see something that's more stimulating and thought provoking, (these are perfect choices). We're very, very pleased and very fortunate how well these films (have been embraced by moviegoers)."
TOP SUMMER GROSSING FILMS
This summer's top grossing films -- releases that have either grossed $100 million-plus or are clearly on the track to do so shortly -- are ranked below according to their approximate cumes through Labor Day weekend:
(1) Spider-Man - Columbia Pictures - $403.7 million
(2) Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones - 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm - $300.6 million
(3) Austin Powers in Goldmember - New Line Cinema - $202.9 million
(4) Signs -- Buena Vista/Touchstone - $194.2 million
(5) Men In Black II - Columbia Pictures - $190.2 million
(6) Scooby-Doo - Warner Bros. - $151.9 million
(7) Lilo & Stitch - Buena Vista/Disney - $141.6 million
(8) Minority Report - 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Pictures - $130.6 million
(9) Mr. Deeds - Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures - $124.2 million
(10) XXX - Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures - $123.3 million
(11) The Sum Of All Fears - Paramount Pictures - $118.3 million
(12) The Bourne Identity - Universal Pictures - $118.0 million
(13) Road To Perdition - DreamWorks Pictures and 20th Century Fox - $98.1 million
(14) My Big Fat Greek Wedding - IFC Films - $81.9 million
This summer produced a dozen films that cracked $100 million and two others that are about to do so. Last summer 10 films hit $100 million and three films wound up grossing in the low $90 millions. Last summer's top grossing film, DreamWorks' animated feature Shrek, grossed $262.9 million.
Notably lacking from the list of summer successes starring superstars is Paramount and InterMedia Films' costly budget action adventure K-19: The Widowmaker, starring Harrison Ford, one of the summer's biggest disappointments. After opening to negative reviews, the Russian nuclear submarine drama sank immediately at the box office. Its cume is approximately $34.4 million.
Also not making the superstar success list is Warner Bros.' The Adventures of Pluto Nash, starring Eddie Murphy. It, too, was slaughtered by the critics and opened poorly. Its cume is approximately $4 million.
TOP TEN SUMMER OPENINGS
This summer's Top Ten films ranked by their opening weekend grosses were:
(1) Spider-Man - Columbia Pictures - $114.8 million
(2) Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones - 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm - $80.0 million
(3) Austin Powers in Goldmember - New Line Cinema - $73.1 million
(4) Signs -- Buena Vista/Touchstone - $60.1 million
(5) Scooby-Doo - Warner Bros. - $54.2 million
(6) Men In Black II - Columbia Pictures - $52.1 million
(7) XXX - Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures - $44.5 million
(8) Mr. Deeds - Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures - $37.2 million
(9) Minority Report - 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Pictures - $35.7 million
(10) Lilo & Stitch - Buena Vista/Disney - $35.3 million
This weekend also saw the arrival of Sony Pictures Classics' R rated Spanish drama Mad Love to an okay ESTIMATED $29,000 at 3 theaters ($9,798 per theater).
Directed by Vicente Aranda, it stars Pilar Lopez de Ayala.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend Focus Features' romantic drama Possession went wider in its third week to a promising ESTIMATED $2.4 million at 612 theaters (+269 theaters; $3,985 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.4 million.
Directed by Neil LaBute, it stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart.
Buena Vista/Disney's PG rated animated family appeal feature Lilo & Stitch widened again over Labor Day weekend in its 11th week to mop up an ESTIMATED $1.2 million at 1,653 theaters (+1,175 theaters; $765 per theater). Its cume is approximately $141.6 million.
Written and directed by Chris Sanders, it was produced by Clark Spencer.
Paramount Classics' PG rated German romantic comedy Mostly Martha went wider in its third week with an okay ESTIMATED $0.5 million at 66 theaters (+39 theaters; $7,245 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.8 million.
Written and directed by Sandra Nettelbeck, it stars Martina Gedeck.
United Artists' R rated comedy 24 Hour Party People, released through MGM, continued to widen and hold well in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $0.18 million at 32 theaters (+9 theaters; $5,595 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.6 million.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom, it stars Steve Coogan.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $100.05 million for the four day weekend, down 11.82 percent from last year when they totaled $113.46 million for four days.
Key films cannot be compared to the previous weekend of this year, which was a regular three day weekend.
Last year, MGM's opening week of Jeepers Creepers was first with $15.83 million at 2.944 theaters ($5,378 per theater); and New Line's fourth week of Rush Hour 2 was second with $11.71 million at 2,825 theaters ($4,146 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $27.5 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $29.9 million.
It's 1828 and an 82-year-old Goya (Francisco Rabal) lives out his remaining days in Bordeaux France. Nursed by his strong-willed young daughter (Dafne Fernández) he relates tales of his many adventures in art politics and love - especially those concerning his stormy romance with the danger-loving Duchess of Alba (Maribel Verdú). And that's as much of a plot as this image-driven film cares to offer while meandering along with the logic of a melancholy dream.
Spanish screen veteran Rabal ("Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!") lends his titanic presence to a role that basically boils down to parading around in a nightshirt with a haunted look on his face. Jose Coronado ("La Mirada del Otro") has slightly more to work with as a younger Goya caught up in vague bits of court intrigue while he follows in Velázquez's footsteps as Spain's most famous artist of the period. He and the offbeatly foxy Verdú ("Belle Epoque") briefly threaten to jump-start the narrative with a torrid affair then Verd£'s Duchess character is unsatisfyingly written out of the picture.
Writer-director Carlos Saura's 30th film displays his usual flair for striking imagery but the innovative style he develops in his fourth outing with acclaimed cinematographer Vittorio Storaro could have used a bit more dramatic meat to hang on. In the film's intentionally nonrealistic world actors march in front of painted backdrops to form moving tableaux vivants. Semi-transparent fabric screens reveal people walking on the other side of walls and elements of Goya's artworks suddenly come to life - all of which is more interesting than what is happening to the characters.