Beneath the glossy sheen of Zac Efron there exists the makings of quite a fine actor glimpses of which were seen in both the blockbuster comedy 17 Again and the indie drama Me and Orson Welles. His transition out of the Disney-fied teen-dream world and into more adult-oriented projects is a gradual uneasy one as is evidenced by his latest film the metaphysical drama Charlie St. Cloud which finds him perched squarely in between the two camps. Efron it appears is in that awkward stage.
In Charlie St. Cloud Efron plays the title character a carefree college-bound sailing star whose bright future is torpedoed when an awful auto wreck takes the life of his beloved kid brother Sam (Charlie Tahan). Charlie at the wheel of the car at the time of the crash briefly dies himself only to be wrested from a flatline by a particularly stubborn and spiritual EMT (Ray Liotta).
Years later Charlie’s body has made a full recovery but his mind remains plagued by some nasty after-effects of the tragedy. He’s given up sailing ditched his college plans gotten a job at a cemetery and taken up the habit of holding regular conversations with dead people — specifically his brother Sam with whom he meets daily in a forest clearing to play catch. Usually such mental deterioration coincides fairly closely with physical deterioration which is why you don’t encounter a lot of well-groomed paranoid schizophrenics on skid row. But Charlie has kept up with his workout and grooming regimens earning a reputation among the residents of his sleepy Pacific Northwest town as a sort of beautiful nutcase.
Unable to escape his all-consuming grief Charlie seems doomed to retreat further into isolation and despair until salvation arrives wrapped in a cardigan: Tess (Amanda Crew) a feisty pro sailor and no stranger to tragedy herself can see beyond Charlie’s unhinged persona to the sensitive troubled and irresistibly hot man that lies beneath. As their relationship deepens Charlie is increasingly torn between his imaginary friends and his real-life love.
It’s a noble aim giving tweens questions deeper than just “Edward or Jacob?” to contemplate and Charlie St. Cloud’s principal message “life is for living ” is a worthwhile one. But director Burr Steers having learned from the success of 17 Again clearly knows where his bread is buttered and so he takes care to sate the demands of Efron’s screeching fanbase by stocking the film with ample glowing shots of his star lovingly lit and clad invariably in a light blue solid color shirt and emoting against a picturesque coastal landscape. (Lest you think I'm exaggerating check out this studio-supplied promo clip featuring an interview with a shirtless Efron.) The awkward mix of existential drama and Abercrombie & Fitch commercial combined with a healthy dose of loopy Sixth Sense-esque supernatural shenanigans tossed in toward the end makes for an experience only the most fawning of Efron’s fans could enjoy.
December 30, 2009 4:08am EST
Variety has outlined the bright lights in the indie sector for 2009 and lists Summit at the head of the field with $455 million in box office totals (excluding holdovers).
Lionsgate took in $396 million followed by the Weinstein Co. with $167 million for the year. Focus Features collected $144 million. Overture Films scored $143 million and Fox Searchlight scooped up $119 million.
The scaled-back Miramax earned nearly $40 million with Sony Pictures Classics tallying $36 million.
Bob Berney's new shingle Apparition has collected $15.4 million since its first release (Jane Campion's Bright Star) in the fall.
Meanwhile, notes Variety, smaller indie distributors like IFC Films and Magnolia had their most profitable years ever thanks to a combination releasing approach.
More details at Variety.
This smart remake/update of a 70 year-old play and movie may not win any Oscars but it turns out to be as gorgeously entertaining as its title indicates. Based on the play and 1939 movie of the same name that skewered upper society women of the era writer/director Diane English has kept the bones intact but updated it all to include women of various places in life. Women who are still trying to find love and happiness and above all else female friendship. In their world life seems to revolve around Tanya (Debi Mazar) the gossipy manicurist at the Saks Fifth Avenue Beauty Salon who spills the beans to magazine editor Sylvie (Annette Bening) that her best friend Mary’s (Meg Ryan) Wall Street tycoon husband has been catting around with voluptuous perfume “spritzer girl” Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes). Deciding in tandem with Mary’s other pals--the housewife Edie (Debra Messing) and writer Alex (Jada Pinkett Smith)--to tell Mary Sylvie sparks an incident that sets off fireworks in all their lives with betrayals career crises pregnancy retreats revenge and forgiveness all figuring into the male-less proceedings. The Women’s entire ensemble cast is pure pleasure and it’s exclusively made up of some of the best comedic actresses around. Even all the extras are women but then that’s sort of the joke of the whole premise. Estrogen flows freely in this group led by Meg Ryan as the victimized wife and mother whose husband plays around on her and whose own father fires her from her job. Talk about a tough week! With money lines like her declaration of sexual prowess “I can suck the nails out of a board ” Ryan has some of her best moments in recent years playing nicely off co-star Bening. As Mary’s best friend she’s the workaholic but aging editor of a women’s magazine that’s on the edge of change she can’t seem to keep up with. Bening beautifully reflects the quandary of a career woman who has to watch her back at every moment. Messing and Pinkett Smith round out the fearsome foursome and each gets some choice comic material to play particularly Messing’s histrionics as the pregnant Edie. Suffice to say the inevitable but riotously funny delivery scene is well worth waiting for. Mendes plays the vamp bit for all it’s worth stunning in all her cunning. Mazar though is a bit too laid back as the manicurist with all the secrets. Cloris Leachman delivers some prize one-liners as Mary’s loyal housekeeper and Tilly Scott Peterson is very funny as the Uta the nanny. Carrie Fisher as a gossip columnist and Bette Midler as a tough-talking Hollywood agent make the most of their brief screen time as well but it’s English's Murphy Brown star Candice Bergen who steals the show as Mary’s wise but plastic surgery-addicted mother. A post face-lift scene with Bergen counseling Ryan is priceless stuff. Writer/director Diane English says she spent 14 frustrating years trying to bring this sassy update of Claire Booth Luce’s creation to the screen. Timing is everything and now with female bonding films all the rage The Women circa 2008 could be just the ticket. Certainly it’s strength is the comic savvy of English who spent several seasons on Murphy Brown honing her skills. It pays off here with a talented cast delivering her snappy lines with expert comic timing. Sure even updated as it is The Women still has the creakiness of a vehicle that peaked in 1939 but for whatever reason the old-fashioned craftsmanship still works even in an era where women have gone on to achievements not dreamed about when Luce wrote the play. As a director English is all about protecting her script and it’s the tight pacing of one amusing sequence after another that makes this little trifle sail by right down to the final sight gag. See it.
March 28, 2008 5:54am EST
Don't bet the house on Horton, says today’s Hollywood Reporter. Only an exceptional third-session hold by Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! would see it score a hat trick atop the box office and though none of the four wide openers this weekend appears to be a sure shot to hit No. 1, Sony's card-counting drama 21 is a strong lead candidate.
"We're certainly in the game to be No. 1 this weekend," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer told THR.
An opening somewhere in the mid-teen millions seems a safe proposition for 21, but a $20 million-plus opening isn't out of the question, says THR.
Rival execs believe Sony has a winning hand with 21, says Variety, and should be able to hit at least that number in millions of dollars.
Also bowing is superhero spoof Superhero Movie for a projected low- to midteen millions.
Iraq War drama Stop Loss will play in fewer than half as many venues as 21 and Superhero as prospects for the film appear grim, despite generally good reviews.
A debut of $4 million or more would be cause for joy. Paramount executives have done extensive research among prospective moviegoers about their attitude toward war films and subsequently are reining in even best-case scenarios accordingly.
Picturehouse held 110 sneak previews of its British comedy Run, Fat Boy, Run last weekend. "Early reviews have been a bit mixed, but patron word-of-mouth will be even more key in the film's playability over future frames," Picturehouse president Bob Berney told THR. "If we can get them in, it plays terrific."
Meanwhile, Horton is about to give Fox this year's first $100 million grosser, even though Variety notes that Hollywood is seeing solid rather than spectacular box office so far this year as the first quarter ends.
As of Wednesday, 2008 receipts hit $1.98 billion, or 3 percent above the same point last year, according to Rentrak. And a significant amount of this year's take has come from 2007 holdovers I Am Legend, Alvin and the Chipmunks, National Treasure: Book of Secrets and Juno.
September 18, 2006 11:53am EST
Birthday boy Marc Anthony and his wife Jennifer Lopez are celebrating after their Hector Lavoe biopic became the subject of the biggest deal at this year's Toronto Film Festival in Canada late on Friday.
Anthony, who turned 38 on Saturday, plays the late salsa superstar in the acclaimed new movie El Cantante, which premiered in Toronto last week.
Lopez plays Lavoe's wife Puchi in the film, which was bought for almost $5 million by executives at Picturehouse, who now plan to release the film in July 2007.
Picturehouse spokesman Bob Berney says, "The Latino community is really an underserved market, but because of the music and the cast, we really think it can cross over."
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Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ held on to the No. 1 position for the third week in a row, taking in a robust $31.1 million at the box office this weekend.
The Passion's closest competitor was The Secret Window, which was runner-up with $19 million. The Johnny Depp thriller was the best opening ever for a film based on a work from the master of suspense, Stephen King. It bumped The Green Mile, which took in $18 million when it debuted in December 1999, to second place, and relegated Dreamcatcher, which opened to $15 million in March 2003, to the No. 3 spot.
But Secret Window still proved no match for the monolithic The Passion of the Christ, which could, according to president of Newmarket Films Bob Berney, spark a religious-themed fad.
"It will probably start trends and everything but at the end of the day, the films have to be pretty spectacular," Berney said Saturday during the South by Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas. "The audience, no matter what, is pretty discerning."
Berney said The Passion has passed 2002's sleeper hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which made $241 million, as the highest-grossing independent film, The Associated Press reports. The Passion's cumulative total to date is $264 million.
"The really interesting thing is that I think this shows that independent production and distribution can be at any level," Berney said. Newmarket's other recent success stories include Monster and Whale Rider.
This week, the Top 12 films grossed an estimated $104.1 million, up 14.59 percent from last week's $90.8 million, but down 20.75 percent from last year's $131.3 million.
Last year, Buena Vista's PG-13 rated comedy Bringing Down the House held on to the No. 1 spot in its second week with $22 million at 2,801 theaters with a $7,874 per theater average; MGM's PG rated teen spy flick Agent Cody Banks kicked off in second place with $14 million in 3,369 theaters with a $4,175 per theater average; and Paramount's R rated thriller The Hunted debuted in third with $13.8 million in 2,516 theaters with a $5,502 per theater average.
BOX OFFICE TOP 10, ESTIMATES (Source: Exhibitor Relations, Inc.)
No. 1: The Passion of the Christ (Newmarket, R)
Gross: $31.6 million (-41%)
Weeks opened: 3
Theaters: 3,221 (+51)
Per-theater average: $9,830
Cume to date: $264 million
No. 2: The Secret Window (Sony, PG-13)
Gross: $19 million
Weeks opened: NEW!
Per-theater average: $6,296
No. 3: Starsky & Hutch (Warner Bros., PG-13)
Gross: $16 million (-43%)
Weeks opened: 2
Theaters: 3,185 (unchanged)
Per-theater average: $5,027
Cume to date: $51.4 million
No. 4: Hidalgo (Buena Vista, PG-13)
Gross: $11.7 million (-38%)
Weeks opened: 2
Theaters: 3,065 (+2 theaters)
Per-theater average: $3,817
Cume to date: $35.5 million
No. 5: Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (MGM, PG)
Gross: $8 million
Weeks opened: NEW!
Per-theater average: $2,691
No. 6: 50 First Dates (20th Century Fox, PG-13)
Gross: $5.3million (-31%)
Weeks opened: 5
Theaters: 2,586 (-454)
Per-theater average: $2,049
Cume to date: $106.5 million
No. 7: Twisted (Paramount Pictures, R)
Gross: $3 million (-40%)
Weeks opened: 3
Theaters: 2,208 (-496)
Per-theater average: $1,393
Cume to date: $21.1 million
No. 8: Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (Buena Vista, PG)
Gross: $2.4 million (-41%)
Weeks opened: 4
Theaters: 1,801 (-379)
Per-theater average: $1,333
Cume to date: $24.9 million
No. 9: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (New Line Cinema, PG-13)
Gross: $2 million (-33%)
Weeks opened: 12
Theaters: 1,307 (-596)
Per-theater average: $1,568
Cume to date: $371.1 million
No. 10: Spartan (Warner Bros., R)
Gross: $2 million
Weeks opened: NEW!
Per-theater average: $2,440
Broken Wings (Sony Picture Classics, R)
Weeks opened: NEW!
Per-theater average: $5,536