It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Way before TBS began running its annual 24-hour Christmas Day marathon of Bob Clark’s holiday staple A Christmas Story, I had my own round-the-clock screenings of the timeless tale at my home. Because of my cultish love of the classic film, I’ve become something of an expert on all things Ralphie Parker and have decided to share some lessons I’ve learned from the feel-good flick with you.
Your Tongue + Cold Steel = Sticky Situation
You should not need to see A Christmas Story to know that putting your tongue on a frozen flagpole is a bad idea. People pee on those schoolyard monuments, for Pete’s sake! Even if you are considering giving in to a triple dog dare, just take a look at poor Flick. I don’t think he had a very holly, jolly Christmas with his mouth all bandaged up. Don’t be that guy.
Guns Aren’t Toys
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but in case you didn’t believe your parents, Ralphie proved them right. His dream gift became a real-life nightmare when he nearly shot his eye out. If there is a lesson to be learned from this painful mistake, it’s not just that guns – even BB guns – aren’t toys, but that you shouldn’t shoot at targets that can easily ricochet.
Forget what the songs, movies and stories say – any and every Santa Claus that YOU will actually meet will be a miserable impostor. From the army of crooked Kringles in Jingle All the Way to Billy Bob Thornton’s boozy St. Nick in Bad Santa to the infamous fraudulent Father of Christmas in this film, there’s no denying that, in reality, Santa sucks.
Duck Is No Substitute for Turkey
I can’t blame the Parker's for heading to Chinatown after losing their bird to the mangy Bumpus hounds. It is a holiday, and a family’s got to eat. However, after witnessing the beheading of a Peking duck and the destruction of a classic carol (Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra, Ra-ra-ra-ra!) at the hands of a Szechuan staff, it’s safe to say that Chinese food should not be on the menu at your Christmas convention.
Mom & Dad Will Always Come Through on Christmas
Through rain, sleet, hail or snow, you can always count on your parents to make your Christmas wishes come true. Even though Ralphie was bothered by bullies, rebuffed by Santa and punished by his mother, his old man made it right by delivering that treasured BB gun and in this gesture lies the moral of the story: Life isn’t always fair and though you can’t always get what you want, every once in a while you do. [Click here and jump right to the :40 second mark to see Ralphie's Christmas wish come true]
Heed these lessons and have a Merry Christmas!
Ocean's Eleven made the weekend's biggest box office waves, breaking into first place with a record setting $39.3 million.
Ocean's full-speed ahead launch ended Harry Potter's three week reign, but put Warner Bros. in the enviable position of having nailed down the top two spots on the chart.
Despite Ocean's strength, ticket sales for key films -- those grossing at least $500,000 -- were only about $83 million, down marginally from this time last year despite blockbuster business for Ocean's and Harry. That decline in the marketplace was driven by sizable drops for Behind Enemy Lines, down 54 percent in its second week, and Spy Game, off 58 percent in its third week.
Between Ocean's and Harry, Warners grossed about $54 million, giving it a staggering market share of about 65 percent.
THE TOP TEN
Warner Bros. PG-13 rated casino heist dramatic comedy Ocean's Eleven opened in first place to a winning ESTIMATED $39.26 million at 3,075 theaters ($12,766 per theater).
Ocean's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Ocean's extensive cast includes George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.
"We're thrilled," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "It's the largest three day Christmas box office (gross) in motion picture history. It's the largest opening of any Christmas movie. The previous record was $33.6 million for What Women Want, which opened Dec. 15 last year.
"From a record setting point of view, it's also the largest Friday in December in history, which belonged to Scream at $12.7 million. We did $13.25 million Friday. The previous record for Saturday was What Women Want at $13.5 million. We did $15.5 million. And the biggest Sunday in the history of December was Titanic with $9.3 million and we're projecting $10.5 million."
Ocean's also set records for its many of its stars and its director. "It's the largest opening for Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Steven Soderbergh," Fellman pointed out. "George (Clooney) was in two of our movies that opened up over the Fourth of July weekend--Batman & Robin, which did $42 million (in 1997) and The Perfect Storm, which did $41 million (in 2000)."
Moviegoers responded very well to Ocean's, Fellman added: "The good news is this film's opening exit polls scored extremely well in all (demographic) quadrants -- led by females under 25. But the composite of the audience was just slightly more female than male. The top two boxes (excellent and very good) were 85 percent, which is huge. The definite recommend was 65 percent and the norms are 50-55 percent. Young females had a 74 percent definite recommend."
Looking ahead, Fellman observed, "This is absolutely going to have a great run. We had a terrific weekend."
Warner Bros.' mega-blockbuster Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone slid one slot to second place in its fourth week with a still enviable ESTIMATED $14.81 million (-37%) at 3,672 theaters (theater count unchanged; $4,032 per theater). Its cume is approximately $239.7 million, heading for the high $300 millions in domestic theaters.
Directed by Chris Columbus, Harry stars Daniel Radcliffe in its title role.
"It's nice that it's starting to stabilize itself at the moment," Warners' Fellman said. "That's a pretty good drop off of 37 percent (with other Top Ten films falling in the 40-60 percent range). The box office will continue to build as the holidays approach. I looked at Toy Story 2, which opened (via Buena Vista) on the same weekend we did a year ago. After this weekend, it had $140 million in. We have $240 million in. From this weekend on, they grossed another $105 million. Who knows where we're going? But we're going to go certainly at least in that direction. We've been out there for 24 days and we've averaged $10 million a day. Not a bad way to go!"
Reflecting on the outstanding year that Warners has enjoyed, Fellman noted, "This is the eighth film of the year that we've opened number one and it's the eleventh week that we've had a number one movie. This weekend our combined product in the marketplace represented 40 percent of all screens in North America. If you take the box office of $54 million for the top two pictures out of the Top Ten, which I have at (approximately) $82 million, you can see the domination that we had in the marketplace this weekend."
Even before Ocean's sailed into theaters, Warners ranked as the year's top distributor in terms of market share. "We passed the $1 billion barrier last week," Fellman said, "which is the second time in our company's history that we've done that. After this weekend, we will surpass our company's record of $1.06 billion and we will have an opportunity shortly to challenge the all-time box office record by a single company, which was Sony with $1.26 billion in 1997."
20th Century Fox and Davis Entertainment's PG-13 rated war drama Behind Enemy Lines got shot down in its second week, falling one peg to third place with a much slower ESTIMATED $8.11 million (-54%) at 2,884 theaters (+74 theaters; $2,852 per theater). Its cume is approximately $31.2 million.
Directed by John Moore, it stars Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman.
Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar Animation Studios' G rated computer animated feature Monsters, Inc. showed good legs in its sixth week, holding on to fourth place with a still colorful ESTIMATED $6.67 million (-27%) at 2,884 theaters (-506 theaters; $2,314 per theater). Its cume is approximately $212.5 million, heading for at least $245-250 million in domestic theaters.
To beat DreamWorks' animated blockbuster Shrek, Monsters will have to crack $268 million at this point.
Directed by Pete Docter, it was co-directed by Lee Unkrich and David Silverman and written by Andrew Stanton and Daniel Gerson.
Universal and Beacon Pictures' R rated espionage thriller Spy Game slipped two rungs to fifth place in its third week with a quieter ESTIMATED $4.58 million (-58%) at 2,770 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,655 per theater. Its cume is approximately $54.1 million.
Directed by Tony Scott and produced by Douglas Wick and Marc Abraham, it stars Robert Redford and Brad Pitt.
20th Century Fox's PG-13 rated urban appeal comedy Black Knight dropped one peg to sixth place in its third week with a calm ESTIMATED $3.25 million (-41%) at 2,233 theaters (-301 theaters; $1,455 per theater). Its cume is approximately $27.2 million, heading for the mid-$30 millions in domestic theaters.
Directed by Gil Junger, it stars Martin Lawrence.
20th Century Fox's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Shallow Hal fell one rung to seventh place in its fifth week with a dull ESTIMATED $2.55 million (-44%) at 2,218 theaters (-210 theaters; $1,150 per theater). Its cume is approximately $64.8 million, heading for $70 million-plus in domestic theaters.
Directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly, it stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Jack Black.
Buena Vista/Touchstone and Spyglass Entertainment's PG-13 snowboarding adventure Out Cold fell one notch to eighth place with a cold-as-ice ESTIMATED $1.4 million (-48%) at 1.651 theaters (-360 theaters; $860 per theater). Its cume is approximately $12.3 million.
Directed by The Malloys, it stars Jason London, Willie Garson and Lee Majors.
Miramax Zoe Films' R rated French comedy Amélie held on to ninth place in its sixth week, holding well with a jolly ESTIMATED $1.1 million (-19%) at 221 theaters (+3 theaters; $4,975 per theater. Its cume is approximately $11.4 million.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, it stars Audrey Tautou.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Paramount's PG-13 rated thriller Domestic Disturbance, down two slots in its sixth week with a calm ESTIMATED $0.95 million (-50%) at 1,471 theaters (-379 theaters; $646 per theater). Its cume is approximately $43.8 million, heading for $45 million.
Directed by Harold Becker, it stars John Travolta.
This weekend also saw the platform release of IFC Films' R rated drama The Business Of Strangers to an encouraging ESTIMATED $0.077 million at 8 theaters ($9,654 per theater).
Written and directed by Patrick Stettner, it stars Stockard Channing and Julia Stiles.
Miramax's PG rated Iranian drama Baran opened an Oscar qualifying run with an okay ESTIMATED $0.019 million at 2 theaters ($9,500 per theater).
Written and directed by Majid Majidi, the film about "an Afghan woman who defied the odds" won the best picture award at the Montreal Film Festival and the National Board of Review's Freedom of Expression Award.
United Artists' R rated Bosnian war drama No Man's Land, an MGM release, opened to a promising ESTIMATED $0.023 million at 2 theaters in New York ($11,500 per theater).
Written and directed by Danis Tanovic, it won the best screenplay award in Cannes last May and was a hit at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals. Land is Bosnia's first official Oscar entry.
Land opens Friday (Dec. 14) in Los Angeles, moves into the remaining eight top domestic markets Dec. 21 and will go broader after that.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend saw New Line Cinema go wider in its seventh week with its R rated drama Life As A House with an unexciting ESTIMATED $0.63 million (-43%) at 1,068 theaters (+118 theaters; $585 per theater). Its cume is approximately $14.8 million.
Directed by Irwin Winkler, it stars Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas.
USA Films' R rated black and white drama The Man Who Wasn't There went wider in its sixth week with a quiet ESTIMATED $0.39 million at 259 theaters (+12 theaters; $1,490 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.0 million.
Directed by Joel Coen and written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, it stars Billy Bob Thornton and Frances McDormand.
Paramount Classics' R rated romantic comedy Sidewalks of New York widened in its third week to a poor ESTIMATED $0.3 million at 224 theaters (+17 theaters; $1,340 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.9 million.
Written and directed by Edward Burns, it stars Edward Burns, Rosario Dawson, Dennis Farina and Heather Graham.
Artisan Entertainment's R rated dark comedy Novocaine expanded in its fourth week to a weak ESTIMATED $0.12 million at 164 theaters (+19 theaters; $750 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.5 million.
Directed by David Atkins, it stars Steve Martin, Helena Bonham Carter and Laura Dern.
Alcon Entertainment's R rated period piece drama The Affair of the Necklace, released through Warner Bros., widened in its second week with an uneventful ESTIMATED $0.095 million at 40 theaters (+22 theaters; $2,375 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.3 million.
Directed by Charles Shyer, it stars Hilary Swank.
Miramax's R rated drama In the Bedroom added a theater in its third week with a still attractive ESTIMATED $0.080 million (-19%) at 6 theaters (+1 theater; $13,300 per theater).Its cume is approximately $0.37 million.
Directed by Todd Field, it stars Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson, Nick Stahl and Marisa Tomei.
In the Bedroom expands on Christmas Day to the top 20 markets.
Universal's international division reported that American Pie 2 "had outstanding openings in Australia and Spain this weekend."
In Australia, Pie 2 grossed $2.2 million on 216 screens. It's opening day was the tenth biggest opening day in Australian history and UIP's fourth biggest ever opening day. Universal said that last Thursday and Friday Pie 2 was the market's number one film, ahead of week two of Harry Potter. Saturday saw Harry take over the top spot, but only running about 12 percent ahead of Pie 2, which is now well positioned to enjoy a very successful run Down Under.
In Spain, Pie 2 also got off to a strong start, opening last Wednesday to capitalize on Thursday being a holiday there. Its cume after four days is a strong $2.3 million on 255 playdates, putting it 103 percent ahead of Jurassic Park III and 21 percent ahead of The Mummy Returns.
Universal said that Pie 2's international cume to date is $112 million with nine countries still to open, including Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.
Key films--those grossing more than $500,000--took in approximately $83.3 million, down a marginal 0.25 per cent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $83.5 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down about 2.45 percent from $85.4 million for the previous weekend of this year.
Last year, Universal's fourth week of Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas was first with $18.65 million at 3,182 theaters ($5,860 per theater); and Sony's first week of Vertical Limit was second with $15.51 million at 2,307 theaters ($6,722 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $34.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $54.1 million.