The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
James Bond won the weekend's box office duel, cutting short Harry Potter's days in first place.
Die Another Day arrived to a chart topping $47 million, the biggest opening ever for a Bond film. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets retreated to second place with a still powerful $42.4 million. It should be at $170 million going into Thanksgiving weekend.
Friday After Next kicked off in third place to a punchy $13.1 million. Santa Clause 2 held well, finishing fourth with $10.3 million.
8 Mile was a quiet fifth with $8.7 million, heading for a very profitable $125 million.
Driven by the Bond and Potter franchises, key films totaled $149.9 million, down about 10 percent from $167 million the previous weekend this year. Comparisons with 2001 don't apply because this weekend last year was the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
THE TOP TEN
MGM's Lion was roaring as United Artists' PG-13 rated action adventure thriller Die Another Day, the 20th of the studio's Bond epics, opened in first place to a to-die-for $47.0 million at 3,314 theaters ($14,183 per theater).
Die's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Directed by Lee Tamahori and produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, it stars Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry.
"Anything with a '4' in front of it, we would be happy (with), so being at the high end of that we're ecstatic," MGM senior vice president, publicity Eric Kops said Sunday morning. "The exit polls are great. They're pretty well divided -- male-female equally and young and old. So the exit polls are tremendous. They're way ahead of the exit polls for any other Bond movie we've had of the Pierce (Brosnan as 007) movies."
Asked how many screens the film's 3,314 theaters translates into, Kops replied, "It's 5,000 and change."
The last Bond film, The World Is Not Enough, opened, Kops said, "to $35.5 million, so we're 32 percent ahead of that."
World is Not Enough arrived the weekend of Nov. 19-21, 1999 to $35.52 million at 3,163 theaters ($11,230 per theater). It went on to gross $126.9 million in domestic theaters and $225.1 million in international theaters for a worldwide total of $352 million. With its stronger launch and the Thanksgiving holiday weekend looming as a strong second weekend for the film, Die already appears to be on track to out-perform World is Not Enough.
Besides the good news on the domestic front, MGM also had success this weekend on the international front with 007. "We also opened in four international territories and broke records there, as well," Kops said. "Between France, the U.K., French speaking Switzerland and Spain it's going to be about $23 million."
Warner Bros.' PG rated sequel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets dropped one notch to second place in its second week with a still sizable ESTIMATED $42.37 million (-52%) at 3,682 theaters (theater count unchanged; $11,507 per theater). Its cume is approximately $148.5 million.
Directed by Chris Columbus, it stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson.
"That's really right where we want to be because we're going to pick up probably another $22 million between now and the end of the week with the holiday, so we'll end up about 39 or 40 percent for the week," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning.
Comparisons between the second weekend drops for Chamber of Secrets and last year's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone aren't possible because of the way Thanksgiving fell last year. "You can't compare week to week because the day after Thanksgiving is the biggest day of the year," Fellman explained. "So all the kids are out (of school). We did $22 million on Friday and then we went down on Saturday. So you can't look at that (for comparison). You've got to go look at the week after to see what happens.
"What's important to look at is the second week. The reason we moved that (release) date up is because now we'll have this huge bump -- probably another $21-$22 million in between now and the end of the week -- so we'll finish the week down somewhere between 39 and 40 or 41 percent. Then we're coming into Thanksgiving weekend. In terms of drop off, the kids were back in school this Friday, so we did $11 million on Friday and we did almost $19 million last night (Saturday). What'll happen now is next Friday against the $11 million, we'll out-gross that by a huge amount. So our drop off for the third week is going to be minimal -- maybe 20 or 25 percent. So we'll have another huge week and at the end of three weeks we'll be right where the first one was."
Where is Chamber of Secrets heading? "After Thanksgiving, in a week, we'll we well over $200 million," Fellman replied. "We're going in the same direction (as Sorcerer's Stone, which did $317.6 million domestically). The question now is we have to see what happens over Thanksgiving against all the competition. The movie (according to many people) is a better movie than number one, so then we head for Christmas. The good news is that there's no big family Christmas movie out there after we pass Thanksgiving. It's just one of those movies everybody's going to see. So if they don't see it Thanksgiving, they'll see it over Christmas. We're on track."
New Line Cinema's R rated comedy sequel Friday After Next kicked off in third place to a lively ESTIMATED $13.06 million at 1,616 theaters ($8,084 per theater).
Directed by Marcus Raboy, it stars Ice Cube and Mike Epps.
"It's right about where we figured we'd be," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "And we're happy."
Buena Vista/Disney's G rated comedy sequel Santa Clause 2 dropped one rung to fourth place in its fourth week, holding well with an ESTIMATED $10.3 million (-32%) at 3,251 theaters (-95 theaters; $3,161 per theater). Its cume is approximately $95.0 million, heading for $110 million.
Directed by Michael Lembeck, it stars Tim Allen.
Universal and Imagine Entertainment's R rated drama 8 Mile fell three pegs to fifth place in its third week with an unexciting ESTIMATED $8.72 million (-55%) at 2,585 theaters (+89 theaters; $3,375 per theater). Its cume is approximately $97.7 million, heading for $125 million.
Directed by Curtis Hanson and produced by Brian Grazer, it stars Eminem, Kim Basinger, Brittany Murphy and Mekhi Phifer.
DreamWorks' PG-13 rated horror thriller The Ring slipped two rungs to sixth place in its sixth week, still showing good legs with an ESTIMATED $7.6 million (-29%) at 2,628 theaters (-254 theaters; $2,883 per theater). Its cume is approximately $110.9 million, heading for $125 million.
Directed by Gore Verbinski, it stars Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson and Brian Cox.
Universal and Beacon Pictures PG-13 rated drama The Emperor's Club opened in seventh place to a hopeful ESTIMATED $4.07 million at 809 theaters ($5,025 per theater).
Directed by Michael Hoffman, it stars Kevin Kline.
"It's working exactly as we had planned," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "We always wanted to deal with this film on a slower basis. We chose this weekend because we believed it would act as a 'sneak weekend.' Instead of having national sneaks, we felt we would open it and let it work as a sneak weekend would so we would be in a position to get the word of mouth out for this incredible film.
"By the way, the CinemaScores and exit polls are really terrific. Everything seems to be going according to plan. We're very pleased with the results. We know that you really can't make an evaluation until after the following 10 days because the next 10 days are crucial days for a movie like this where adults will be able to choose to go to the movies. This is a picture that certainly will appeal to the over-30 crowd and I think the word of mouth is going to support what everybody has been telling us as we've gone along with this incredible grass roots campaign."
Asked about the studio's exit poll results, Rocco replied, "The exit polls were 90 percent in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) across the board. And that's pretty good considering this movie really appeals to the over-30 crowd. The overall ratings were above average, specifically the excellent and very good scores were solidly above the norm. And the Definite Recommend scores were also very, very strong. 81 percent of the audience was 30 years and older. It was slightly skewed female -- 62 percent female versus 38 percent male."
IFC Films' release of Gold Circle Films and HBO's PG rated romantic comedy blockbuster My Big Fat Greek Wedding dropped two slots to eighth place in its 32nd week, still holding well with an ESTIMATED $3.81 million (-19%) at 1,585 theaters (-227 theaters; $2,402 per theater). Its cume is approximately $204.7 million, heading for $215 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Joel Zwick, it stars Nia Vardalos and John Corbett.
Sony's Screen Gems label's PG-13 thriller Half Past Dead fell four notches to ninth place in its second week with a dull ESTIMATED $3.3 million (-58%) at 2,113 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,562 per theater). Its cume is approximately $12.7 million.
Written and directed by Don Michael Paul, it stars Steven Seagal and Morris Chestnut.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Miramax's R rated drama Frida, which continued to expand in its fifth week with a quiet ESTIMATED $2.4 million (-19%) at 794 theaters (+275 theaters; $3,023 per theater). Its cume is approximately $12.1 million.
Directed by Julie Taymor, it stars Salma Hayek.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Miramax and Intermedia Films' R rated drama The Quiet American to a promising ESTIMATED $0.11 million at 6 theaters in a two week Oscar qualifying run in New York, Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Santa Barbara ($18,500 per theater).
Directed by Phillip Noyce, it stars Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser.
United Artists' R rated drama Personal Velocity, released via MGM, opened to a very encouraging ESTIMATED $30,712 at 2 theaters in New York ($15,356 per theater).
Directed by Rebecca Miller, it stars Kyra Sedgwick, Parker Posey and Fairuza Balk.
Velocity, which won the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival, opens in Toronto and L.A. this coming weekend.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend Focus Features' PG-13 rated drama Far From Heaven went wider in its third week with a still promising ESTIMATED $1.6 million at 259 theaters (+205 theaters; $6,195 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.2 million.
Directed by Todd Haynes, it stars Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid and Dennis Haysbert.
Samuel Goldwyn Films' R rated drama El Crimen del Padre Amaro expanded in is second week to an encouraging ESTIMATED $0.72 million at 89 theaters (+46 theaters; $8,070 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.5 million.
Directed by Carlos Carrera, it stars Gael Garcia Bernal and is the official Mexican entry in this year's best foreign language film Oscar race.
HBO Films and Newmarket Films' PG-13 rated comedy drama Real Women Have Curves added theaters in its sixth week with a slow ESTIMATED $0.44 million (-15%) at 165 theaters (+18 theaters; $2,682 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.2 million.
Directed by Patricia Cardoso, it stars America Ferrera, Lupe Ontiveros and George Lopez.
Artisan Entertainment's PG rated documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown expanded in its second week with a still hopeful ESTIMATED $0.15 million at 36 theaters (+13 theaters; $4,195 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.3 million.
Directed by Paul Justman, it tells the story of the Funk Brothers, the legendary musicians who were Motown's back-up band on the tons of hit records the label produced in Detroit in the early '60s.
Miramax's R rated drama Ararat widened in its second week with a solid ESTIMATED $0.11 million at 29 theaters (+23 theaters; $16,000 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.4 million.
Written and directed by Atom Egoyan, it stars David Alpay, Charles Aznavour, Eric Bogosian, Brent Carver and Marie-Josee Croze.
Artisan Entertainment's R rated comedy Roger Dodger widened in its fifth week with a slow ESTIMATED $0.1 million at 54 theaters (+6 theaters; $1,920 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.8 million.
Written and directed by Dylan Kidd, it stars Jennifer Beals, Elizabeth Berkley, Jesse Eisenberg, Isabella Rossellini and Campbell Scott.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $149.93 million for the weekend, down about 10.23 percent from the previous weekend this year when they totaled $167.01 million. Comparisons to last year are not valid because this weekend in 2001 was the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.