Based on the 1987 videogame sensation and later made into an anemic 1994 Jean-Claude Van Damme action flick this latest version pits the forces of evil vs. good in the slums of modern day Bangkok but fails to capture any of the excitement that made Street Fighter a legend among gamers. In this edition evil crime boss Bison (Neal McDonough) is joined by henchmen Balrog (Michael Clarke Duncan) and Vega (Taboo of The Black Eyed Peas) in taking over the Thai city using extremely violent power. Out to stop him from adding to his growing collection of heads are a group of disparate warriors including the half-Caucasian half-Asian beauty Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk) who has given up her American life of privilege to help the oppressed. Joining her in the fight are her Kung Fu master Gen (Robin Shou) an Interpol cop Charlie Nash (Chris Klein) who has been tailing Bison around the world and his co-hort homicide detective Maye Sunee (Moon Bloodgood). While most martial arts films are hardly a showcase for actors this film hits new lows. McDonough utters straight-faced lines such as “when people are hungry there’s nothing they won’t do because everyone has a price ” which apparently also means himself or why else would he take the role of such a wooden villain? The acting is so bad that even the Americans including Duncan Taboo and Klein feel like they’ve been victims of a bad dubbing job. As the lead the attractive Kreuk also proves to be a fierce martial arts artist which at least partially makes up for the pedestrian dialogue and leaden narration she has to utter throughout. The one thing Polish director Andrzej Bartkowiak has gotten right with Street Fighter is the kung fu of it all but that’s hardly enough to recommend slogging through the rest of this mess. As a renowned cinematographer (Terms of Endearment The Verdict) Bartkowiak exhibits a sharp eye for color and detail but the drab look of Street Fighter makes one wonder if as director he ever bothered to look through the lens at all. This is strictly paint-by-the-numbers filmmaking of the most unimaginative order. When Klein spots a flashing red button signaling an explosive device about to go off he yells “Bomb! Everybody out!” He just as well could have been talking about this movie too.
Barely remembered by his fellow countryman but revered to this day by the Chinese George Hogg was an Oxford-educated adventurer who led 60 war orphans on a 700-mile trek during the Japanese occupation of China to prevent them from falling into the hands of the advancing occupying forces. In director Roger Spottiswoode’s leisurely retelling of this heroic feat Hogg (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is introduced sneaking into Nanking in 1937 to report on the three-sided war between the Japanese Chinese Nationals and Chinese Communists. Upon his arrival Hogg witnesses Japanese soldiers execute hundreds in cold blood. With the aid of Communist resistance leader “Jack” Chen (Chow Yun-Fat) and Red Cross nurse Lee Pearson (Radha Mitchell) an injured Hogg is taken to recuperate at a school in Huang Shi. Once better Hogg plans to tell the world what’s happening in China. But he takes such a shine to the orphans that he decides to stay as the school’s headmaster. Soon though news spreads that Japanese troops are marching toward Huang Shi. Hogg has no choice but to take the orphans on a months-long journey--with rough terrain and bitter weather ahead of them--to find a safe place to live and learn. Let’s ignore the fact that pretty-boy Rhys Meyers struts through the Second Sino-Japanese War looking more like a fashion-conscious playboy on vacation than a war correspondent dodging bullets and bombs. The hunkiest Henry VIII ever--sorry Eric Bana--downplays the onscreen Hogg’s evident superior complexity in order to react to the horrible circumstances he’s found himself in with the appropriate amount of fear compassion and resourcefulness. On the other hand Yun-Fat acts like he’s in Apocalypse Now. He gleefully spouts war-isn’t-hell Kilgore-isms even though his fervor and glibness are out of place in a film that treats the war with obvious grave solemnity. The tough-as-nails Mitchell does serve as something of a calming influence whenever she’s around Yun-Fat. Unfortunately sparks don’t fly between Mitchell and Rhys Meyers making it impossible to buy into their perfunctionary romance. Honestly Rhys Meyers generates more heat with the sublimely regal Michelle Yeoh whose black marketer is taken with this most charming customer. Too bad Yeoh doesn’t share any moments with her Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon costar Yun-Fat. Of the orphans the stone-faced Guang Li makes the greatest impression as a warrior among children who rightfully fears Hogg will usurp his authority. “We’re all something different in China ” Pearson tells Hogg. That certainly holds true for Hogg. Beyond serving as a CliffsNotes-style history lesson in the Second Sino-Japanese War The Children of Huang Shi asks what it takes during a time of conflict to transform an observer to a participant a pacifist to an advocate of war. Actually it doesn’t take much for the reporter portrayed here to abandon his personal and professional principles. Even if director Roger Spottiswoode pulls no punches whenever he places Hogg in harm’s way our hero’s swift conversion from impartial bystander to unlikely savior would still probably be laughed at by the hardened war correspondents in the director’s superior Under Fire. Sadly after depicting the horrors of war with bloody and brutal honesty Spottiswoode falls into the trap of presenting Hogg as the all-knowing all-sage Westerner out to rescue 60 “savages” not just from the Japanese but from themselves. The students don’t teach anything of value to Hogg. Even his relationships with a select few students aren’t as fully explored as those he shares with Pearson and Chen. That’s not to say that the much-anticipated journey across the Gobi Desert isn’t inspirational. It is even if it seems more rushed and less eventful than expected. The Children of Huang Shi isn’t as powerful or compelling as Schindler's List but there’s no denying that it may help Hogg receive the recognition he deserves outside of China for his selfless actions during a war that he had no vested interest in.
What No Reservations needs is a smell-sensitive rat who can cook. Instead we get head chef Kate Armstrong (Catherine Zeta-Jones) a perfectionist who runs the kitchen of a swanky Manhattan eatery with an iron fist. Let’s just say she’s in desperate need of an attitude adjustment so in pops new sous-chef Nick (Aaron Eckhart) a free-spirited fellow who cooks by the seat of his pants. Soon he’s got the whole kitchen staff laughing and loving him way more than Kate. Nick tries to charm Kate too but she won’t have any of it. To top it off Kate unexpectedly becomes the guardian of her 9 year-old niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin) after her sister dies in a car accident. The understandably distraught Zoe is having a tough time and won’t eat any of her aunt’s highfalutin cuisine. The little girl only likes fish sticks—and as it turns out spaghetti a Nick specialty. Yes Nick finally melts Kate’s heart when he gets Zoe to eat a hearty bowl of spaghetti. You can see where this is going right? Love—and tomato sauce—conquers all. When you have two incredibly attractive people onscreen together you want the sparks to fly. Think Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. True those two were falling in love for real but still it makes for a more fulfilling and cinematically romantic experience. But alas it doesn’t always work out and in No Reservations’ case the love story between Zeta-Jones and Eckhart deflates like a fallen soufflé. On their own they each hold up well: Zeta-Jones is good at being steely but emotionally stunted when it comes to matters of the heart while Eckhart’s easy-going charm and great smile make his Nick an obvious choice for any woman. Get them together however and things sag like a wet noodle. Too bad. Breslin is her usual cute self playing it a little more somber than she did in Little Miss Sunshine but the little actress ought to be careful not to pigeon-hole herself into the “eccentric but affecting” kid role. No Reservations also has another knock against it: It’s a remake of the German film Mostly Martha a far more stellar—and original—effort. Natch. Turning a hit foreign film into a studio picture rarely works out; something always gets missed in the translation which for No Reservations is surprising since Mostly Martha writer/director Sandra Nettelbeck is listed as the co-writer. What Nettelbeck did with Mostly Martha is revolve her story around master chef Martha (played brilliantly by Martina Gedeck) and her quirks and anxieties over suddenly having to raise a child. The love story with the Italian chef is more a pleasant surprise than the driving force. But of course with No Reservations the romance is played up for that certain chick flick appeal with two people who have no chemistry. Maybe Nettelbeck was lured into Americanizing her original. For his part director Scott Hicks (Shine) is definitely capable enough to carve out what he can from this predictable set up even adding some flair to the kitchen scenes but he can’t quite push No Reservations past its banality.
Three years since relieving ruthless Las Vegas hotel owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) of a large chunk of cash Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew--including detail man Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) and novice pickpocket Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon)--have tried to live modest legit lives. Sure it's hard to go straight but hey at least they got away with the heist of the century. Right? Not quite. Seems a mysterious someone has ratted the gang out to Benedict who demands his $160 million back or else. Strapped of most of their cash and too hot in the United States to pull off a job Ocean and company decide Europe would be the best place to score much to the chagrin of Danny's wife Tess (Julia Roberts). Once in Europe however they find out it isn't as easy as it used to be. They run up against the tough-as-nails Europol agent Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who once had a fling with Rusty and Europe's premier master thief the Night Fox (Vincent Cassel) who seems to be one step ahead of Ocean's crew. Let the games begin.
Ocean's Twelve's crop of A-listers have way too much fun making these movies as they recapture that freewheeling spirit and good-ole-boy camaraderie from Ocean's Eleven. Even though sometimes it seems like they are a bunch of frat boys hazing each other the actors clearly are enjoying themselves tremendously--and so do we. Clooney and Pitt continue to be the suave ringleaders speaking to each other in code while Pitt's Rusty gets the love interest this time around. As Rusty's former flame Zeta-Jones holds her own with the boys but doesn't have nearly the chemistry with Pitt that Roberts and Clooney exude as marrieds Danny and Tess. Actually Roberts almost steals Twelve away from the guys: she gets to show off her comedic abilities in one of the film's most hysterical sequences which involves real-life movie stars and Fabergé eggs. As far as the rest of the gang they all are back and raring to go including Damon who comes off as even more green and eager as Linus and the hilarious bickering Malloy brothers played brilliantly by Scott Caan and Casey Affleck. As for the villains Garcia's Benedict has very little do leaving most of the malevolent posturing and stylish good looks to French actor Cassel (Birthday Girl) as the crafty Night Fox.
With one of the keenest eyes in the business director Steven Soderbergh is a pro at letting audiences experience what seem to be very personal moments in his films. Ocean's Twelve is no exception as we become privy to the locker-room antics of our favorite band of thieves. This makes you as much a part of the boys club as its rowdy stars. Soderbergh describes Twelve as a "movie in which everything goes wrong from the get-go " whereas everything went right in Eleven. This allows for some wonderful comic scenes such as Roberts' escapade and the quick-witted exchanges between the boys. Upon finding out that the gang is now called "Ocean's Eleven" safecracker Frank (Bernie Mac) exclaims "Who decided that? I'm a private contractor!" The film's inherent problems come from George Nolfi's screenplay which tries to incorporate the whole "greatest thief in America meets the greatest thief in Europe" idea. Suddenly Twelve becomes less about planning a heist and watching things go wrong than about a cock fight to see which thief can outdo the other thief. At the end when all the convoluted twists are revealed you're left wishing for simpler times.
October 19, 2003 1:46pm EST
There was lots of slicing and dicing at the box office this weekend as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre's Leatherface took on Kill Bill's Bride, proving that samurai sword is no match for a grungy power tool.
New Line Cinema proved with its remake of Tobe Hooper's low-budget 1974 cult horror film Texas Chainsaw Massacre that there is strength in a name. The thriller, rated R for strong horror violence/gore, language and drug content, took in an insatiable $29.1 million* over the weekend, which is not surprising considering the film scored very well in its preview screenings, especially with under-25 horror aficionados.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre's bloody take was also enough to make it the second best October opener of all time, bumping the comedy 2000 comedy Meet the Parents to third place. TCM follows the likes of October champ Red Dragon, which debuted in 2002 with $36.5 million; the 2000 comedy Meet the Parents, with $28.6 million; the 2002 comedy Jackass: The Movie, with $22.7 million; and the 2001 drama Training Day with $22.5 million.
Last week's box office champ, Quentin Tarantino's equally brutal R rated thriller Kill Bill Vol. 1, wasn't able to fend off Leatherface's onslaught. The film came in second with a tame $12.5 million.
This week's only other new wide release, the courtroom thriller Runaway Jury, debuted in third place with an expected $12.1 million, while the Jack Black comedy School of Rock rolled into fourth place with a rockin' $11.3 million. Clint Eastwood's Oscar buzz pic Mystic River, which took in an impressive $45,491 per-screen average when it debuted in 13 theaters last week, rounded out the Top Five in its first week of wide release with $10.3 million.
THE TOP TEN
New Line Cinema's R rated horror The Texas Chainsaw Massacre debuted with an ESTIMATED $29.1 million in 3,016 theaters with a tangible $9,649 per theater average-the highest of any film playing wide this week.
In the film, a free-spirited road trip across Texas runs headlong into madness for five friends when they encounter a bizarre family and a chainsaw-wielding man known as Leatherface.
Directed by Marcus Nispel, it stars Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Mike Vogel, Erica Leerhsen and Andrew Bryniarski.
Miramax Films' R rated Kill Bill Vol. 1, last week's box office champ, came in second in its second week with an ESTIMATED $12.5 million (-43%) in 3,102 theaters (unchanged, $4,030 per theater). It's cume is approximately $43.3
Directed by Tarantino, it stars Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah and David Carradine.
Twentieth Century Fox's R rated courtroom thriller Runaway Jury opened in third place with an ESTIMATED $12.1 million in 2,815 theaters with a $4,298 per theater average.
In the film, the latest Grisham adaptation, a young widow brings a civil suit against a powerful gun manufacturing corporation she holds responsible for the death of her husband.
Directed by Gary Fleder, it stars John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz.
Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated comedy School of Rock, dropped two positions to No. 4 in its third week with an ESTIMATED $11.3 million (-27%) in 2,951 theaters (+22 theaters; $3,829 per theater). Its cume is approximately $55.1 million.
Directed by Richard Linklater, it stars Black, Joan Cusack and Michael White.
Warner Bros.' R rated drama Mystic River expanded in its second week to round out the Top Five with an ESTIMATED $10.3 million in 1,467 theaters (+1,454 theaters; $7,059 per theater). Its cume is approximately $13.4 million.
The film centers on three childhood friends who share a tragic event from the past and cross paths again 25 years later when one of the men's daughters is found brutally murdered.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, it stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden.
MGM's PG rated canine comedy Good Boy! fell three spots to come in sixth in its third week with an ESTIMATED $9 million (-31%) in 3,225 theaters (unchanged; $2,791 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.7 million.
Directed by John Hoffman, it stars Liam Aiken and the vocal talents of Matthew Broderick, Brittany Murphy, Carl Reiner and Vanessa Redgrave as the dog Hubble and his four-legged friends.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Universal Pictures' PG 13 rated romantic comedy Intolerable Cruelty dropped three rungs to place seventh in its second week with an ESTIMATED $6.8 million (-45%) in 2,570 theaters (+6 theaters, $2,680 per theater). Its cume is approximately $23 million.
Produced by Ethan Coen and directed by Joel Coen, it stars George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
MGM Pictures' R rated police thriller Out of Time fell three notches to eighth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $4.1 million (-52%) at 2,344 theaters (-732; $1,749 per theater). Its cume is approximately $35.3 million.
Directed by Carl Franklin, it stars Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan and Dean Cain.
Buena Vista's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Under the Tuscan Sun fell five notches to No. 9 in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $3.4 million (-31%) in 1,663 theaters (-38 theaters; $2,044 per theater). Its cume is approximately $33.7 million.
Directed by Audrey Wells, it stars Diane Lane, Sandra Oh, Vincent Riotta and Raoul Bova.
Universal Pictures' PG-13 rated jungle actioner The Rundown fell three rungs in its fourth place week to round out the Top Ten with an ESTIMATED $2.8 million (-45%) in 2,099 theaters (-724 theaters; $1,355 per theater). Its cume is approximately $44.5 million.
Directed by Peter Berg, it stars The Rock, Seann William Scott, Rosario Dawson and Christopher Walken.
Buena Vista' PG rated biopic Veronica Guerin debuted in 472 theaters with $603,000 with a soft $1,278 per theater average.
In the film, set in the mid-1990s, journalist Veronica Guerin covers the powerful drug lords battling for control of the street of Dublin, Ireland.
Directed by Joel Schumacher, it stars Cate Blanchett, Gerard McSorely and Ciaran Hinds.
Focus Features' R rated biopic Sylvia debuted in three theaters with an ESTIMATED $52,000 with an impressive $17,333 per theater average.
The film is a biopic of American poet Sylvia Plath and her turbulent marriage to a future poet laureate of England, Ted Hughes.
Directed by Christine Jeffs, the film stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig.
United Artists' PG-13 teen drama Pieces of April opened in six theaters with $48,000 with a strong $8,000 per theater average.
In the film, 21-year-old April Burns invites her estranged, straight-laced family for Thanksgiving dinner for a disastrous evening.
Directed by Peter Hedges, it stars Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, Oliver Platt and Derek Luke.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $105.2 million, up 7.5 percent from last weekend's $73.5 million. The Top 12 movies were also up 43 percent from this time last year when they took in $97.9 million.
Last year, Dreamworks' R rated thriller The Ring debuted at No. 1 with $15 million in 1,981 theaters ($7,580 per theater); Buena Vista's PG-13 rated comedy Sweet Home Alabama also stayed in second place in its fourth week with $9.5 million in 3,282 theaters ($2,913 per theater); and Universal's R rated thriller Red Dragon followed in third place in its third week with $8.7 million in 3,307 theaters ($2,650 per theater).