While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
A billionaire TV producer (Robert Mammone) has a great idea for a reality show that he wants to put on the Internet and his goal is to beat the 40 million Super Bowl audience. He has compiled a crack team of young hip and immoral tech geeks directed by Goldman (Rick Hoffman) and puts cameras throughout a remote island where former prisoners are going to kill each other while audiences watch after shelling out the pay-per-view fee. The location is done on a remote secret island and the death row prisoners are bought from prisons around the world with the promise that the survivor gets to walk free. Among the contestants are a rogue Aussie named McStarley (Vinnie Jones) a martial arts expert (Masa Yamaguchi) a husband-and-wife team (Manu Bennett and Dasi Ruz) a monstrous killer who doesn't do much more than grunt (Nathan Jones) and others known only as The Italian The German and other monikers quickly forgotten. Enter the sole American Jack Conrad (Steve Austin) who's in a South American prison for some obscure reason and is recognized on TV by his wife (Madeleine West) who tries to save him. However it looks like Conrad is pretty good at helping himself. Don't expect the acting to be much more evolved than what could be seen among the World Wrestling Entertainment superstars especially since many of them were plucked from the ring to star in this morality tale. But Austin (who had in a strong cameo in Adam Sandler's Longest Yard) proves he has a sense of humor as well as strength. Vinnie Jones is ridiculously over-the-top as the Aussie who's the hand-picked winner of this game shown setting up alliances Survivor style only to turn on them later. The supporting cast are refreshingly entertaining but one-note caricatures both in the contest and running the contest. It's obvious that they aren't going to be around long but the actors do milk their tiny roles for every bit of attention they can get. Rick Hoffman as the brilliant camera mastermind of the project is both whiny sniveling and mean-spirited so when he joins some of the rest of the crew and suddenly develops a backbone and a conscience he ends up stealing the movie with his acerbic humor. But it's the understated American hero Conrad who holds a mirror up to the people who like to watch this stuff. Director Scott Wiper who co-wrote this story has also acted in similar movies like this (A Better Way to Die). It’s obvious he knows what he’s doing with The Condemned and develops a sense of voyeuristic angst like those of us who can't keep our eyes off a train wreck. Like the darkly subversive Belgian film Man Bites Dog the camera crew remains safely distant and remote until the reality directly involves them. Then the crew wonders "What the hell are we doing?" while the audience might be thinking "What the hell are we watching?" Much like Series 7: The Contenders Rollerball and other movies which show a dark and bloody near future this kind of reality doesn't seem too far away and maybe proves that movies which provide this type of gladiator spectacle target a certain segment of the human population who need to blow off steam.
It wasn't a glittering weekend for Hollywood as its only wide opening, Glitter, failed to make the Top Ten.
The weekend's biggest success story was Warner Bros.' well attended sneak previews Friday and Saturday night of Castle Rock Entertainment's PG-13 rated drama Hearts in Atlantis, directed by Scott Hicks (Shine) and starring Anthony Hopkins.
Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on New York and Washington, several studios decided to pull films from this weekend's release schedule. Two movies that had loomed as strong box office contenders were suddenly seen as having inappropriate content--Warner Bros.' police corruption drama Training Day, directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke; and Buena Vista/Touchstone's comedy Big Trouble, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and starring Tim Allen and Rene Russo.
In the absence of any strong new arrivals, Paramount's PG-13 rated urban appeal drama-comedy Hardball easily held on to first place with an okay ESTIMATED $8.2 million (-13%) at 2,210 theaters (+73 theaters; $3,710 per theater). Its cume is approximately $19.4 million.
Hardball's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in over 500 theaters this weekend.
Directed by Brian Robbins, it stars Keanu Reeves.
"It held up very well," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "Obviously, we're very pleased with it. I think it's the kind of movie, a feel good movie, that [works well because] of everything that's going on right now. It's also a good movie. It plays very well to the audience."
Asked where it's heading, Lewellen replied, "Right now, with this strong a hold I think it's in the $40 million-plus range."
Ticket sales by key films--those grossing $500,000 or more for the weekend--were approximately $52.9 million, down only about 5.6 percent from the comparable weekend last year's total of $56.1 million. The relatively modest drop from last year suggests that moviegoing did not fall dramatically this weekend and that had there been stronger films entering the marketplace, ticket sales would most likely have been up from last year.
In fact, looking back at this weekend last year, the top grossing film then was Columbia's Urban Legends: Final Cut, which opened to only $8.5 million, very much in line with this year's first place Hardball gross of $8.2 million.
Dimension Films' PG-13 thriller The Others rose three pegs to second place in its seventh week, still showing great legs with an ESTIMATED $5.2 million (+13%) at 2,801 theaters (-42 theaters; $1,856 per theater). Others, which cost only $17 million to make, has a cume of approximately $80.2 million, heading for $90 million or more in domestic theaters.
Directed by Alejandro Amenabar, it stars Nicole Kidman.
"In its seventh week it's the highest it's ever been in the Top Ten," David Kaminow, senior vice president, marketing for Dimension's parent company Miramax, said. "We're sneaking Serendipity next weekend both Friday and Saturday and, obviously, we'll sneak [in theaters playing] The Others. So that will help (boost the thriller's cume). $85 million seems ridiculous (as a projection now and $90 million-plus seems more likely)."
Asked about the film's recently increased television advertising, Kaminow explained, "That was kind of always the plan just in terms of looking at the competitive landscape. We came in on Aug. 10 and we knew that if we could get it into the fall we would still have a couple of solid weeks into September before [the arrival of strong new competition]. This [coming] weekend will be the first time it's really going to face [major competition] between the Michael Douglas movie (20th Century Fox and Regency's thriller Don't Say a Word) and Zoolander [from Paramount, directed by and starring Ben Stiller] and Hearts in Atlantis. In the planning process, this was always on course. It, of course, exceeded expectations. But our goal was to keep it going. The way we released it, starting on 1,600 screens and adding 400 more [the next weekend] was really sort of building and building and building. I think it's a nice model [to use but] you have to have the movie to do it with, though, so it doesn't burn itself out."
Kaminow also pointed out that Others' success adds strength to Nicole Kidman's prospects as an Oscar and Golden Globes best actress contender. "It's great for Nicole," he said. "We definitely think she has a campaign ahead of her."
Columbia's PG-13 rated suspense thriller The Glass House fell one rung to third place in its second week with a slower ESTIMATED $4.4 million (-23%) at 1,591 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,766 per theater). Its cume is approximately $11.7 million.
Directed by Daniel Sackheim, it stars Leelee Sobieski, Diane Lane and Stellan Skarsgard.
"It's a nice small movie that has taken advantage of a pretty soft marketplace and looks like it could get to $20 million," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
Universal and Miramax's PG-13 rated action adventure acquisition The Musketeer fell one notch to fourth place in its third week with a less rousing ESTIMATED $3.51 million (-36%) at 2,500 theaters (+24 theaters; $1,405 per theater). Musketeer, which Universal picked up for North America for only about $3.75 million, has a cume of approximately $22.6 million, heading for $30 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Peter Hyams, it stars Catherine Deneuve, Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea, Tim Roth and Justin Chambers.
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated action comedy blockbuster sequel Rush Hour 2 rose one rung to fifth place in its eighth week with a solid ESTIMATED $3.65 million (-11%) at 2,129 theaters (-137 theaters; $1,714 per theater). Its cume is approximately $215.7 million, heading for $220-225 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Brett Ratner, it stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.
"It keeps rolling along," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "This is actually what our game plan was--that it would roll all the way through September."
Asked if the fact that Rush 2 is a comedy is helping it during these troubled times, Tuckerman replied, "I think so. I think that the fact that it's a comedy (is a plus) and you just go in for an hour and a half and have a good time. There's nothing else to think about. It's very simple and very funny. I think there are a lot of people in the country who are interested in not thinking about things."
Tuckerman pointed out that other comedies are also benefiting from the public's desire for escapist entertainment these days: "Rat Race is continuing to play well. And American Pie 2 has continued (doing well). They're still stuck in the Top Ten. It looks like [people] are looking for comedy."
Bel-Air Entertainment's R rated drama Rock Star, distributed by Warner Bros., which was tenth last week, tied for sixth place in its third week. Rock got a big boost from Warners' well attended sneaks Friday and Saturday of Castle Rock Entertainment's Hearts in Atlantis.
Thanks to those sneaks, Rock looked a lot livelier with an ESTIMATED $3.2 million (-6%) at 2,162 theaters (-363 theaters; $1,480 per theater). Its cume is approximately $15.4 million.
Directed by Stephen Herek, it stars Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston.
"We had the best sneaks, I think, in the history of Warner Bros.," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "There were 510 sneaks and we were 85 percent capacity. We had 94 percent in the Top Two boxes (excellent and very good). [The audience was] 53 percent female and 47 percent male. And, of course, Rock Star was the beneficiary of that. Rock Star moved from number ten to [tie for] number six."
Directed by Scott Hicks and written by William Goldman, Hearts stars Anthony Hopkins.
Hearts opens this Friday (Sept. 28). "We had planned to open at 1,200 theaters, but due to the great reaction and response from our campaign--and, by the way, [Warner Bros. creative advertising executive] Jim Fredrick did a great job--we're probably going to be in close to 1,700 theaters now," Fellman said. "We bought the (additional) prints anticipating a good weekend. We're thrilled that it was well attended, but we didn't expect it to be that [exceptionally] strong."
Fellman agreed that it helped that many people were looking for something new to see this weekend. "And they loved it," he noted. "It's a feel good movie. It comes in at the right time."
Focusing on the health of the current marketplace, Fellman pointed out, "The marketplace being only 16 percent behind last year for the 13 pictures we track is an indication that the marketplace is stronger than we [think it is] because the major companies moved pictures away from this period. We were going to open Training Day this weekend and we moved it back. The tracking is huge. What these numbers show is that without any very strong films in the marketplace, people still went to the movies. There was nothing new that opened [wide] this weekend except Glitter."
Sony's Screen Gems label's R rated urban appeal romantic comedy Two Can Play That Game, which was fourth last week, tied for sixth place in its third week with a less playful ESTIMATED $3.2 million (-31%) at 1,308 theaters (+11 theaters; $2,446 per theater). Made for only $6 million, its cume is approximately $18.2 million, heading for the mid-$20 millions in domestic theaters.
Written and directed by Mark Brown, it stars Vivica A. Fox and Anthony Anderson.
Paramount's PG-13 comedy Rat Race rose one rung to eighth place in its sixth week, still showing good legs with an ESTIMATED $3.0 million (-16%) at 2,417 theaters (-78 theaters; $1,241 per theater). Its cume is approximately $51.6 million.
Directed by Jerry Zucker, it stars Rowan Atkinson, John Cleese, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Seth Green, Jon Lovitz, Breckin Meyer and Amy Smart.
Where is Race heading? "Between $55-60 million," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "I think it's got a shot at $60 million."
MGM's Jeepers Creepers, the R rated horror film from the studio's United Artists label, fell one notch to eighth place in its fourth week with a less scary ESTIMATED $2.79 million (-27%) at 2,576 theaters (-271 theaters; $1,083 per theater). Its cume is approximately $33.6 million.
Written and directed by Victor Salva, it stars Gina Phillips, Justin Long, Jonathan Breck and Eileen Brennan.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Universal's R rated youth appeal comedy hit sequel American Pie 2, down two pegs in its seventh week with a less stimulating ESTIMATED $2.65 million (-27%) at 2,117 theaters (-222 theaters; $1,250 per theater). Pie 2, which cost about $30 million to make, has a cume of approximately $139.6 million, heading for $145 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by J.B. Rogers, it stars Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas and Eugene Levy.
This weekend also saw the arrival of 20th Century Fox and Columbia's PG-13 rated musical drama Glitter out of the Top Ten with a tarnished ESTIMATED $2.5 million at 1,202 theaters ($2,080 per theater).
Directed by Vondie Curtis Hall, it stars Mariah Carey.
Fox, which is releasing Glitter domestically, had planned to open it in late August, but delayed its release after Carey suffered what widespread media reports called a breakdown.
Also arriving was 8X Entertainment's PG-13 rated sequel drama Megiddo: The Omega Code 2, which failed to set the world on fire with an ESTIMATED $1.4 million at 315 theaters ($4,350 per theater).
Megiddo, whose ads do not credit a director, stars Michael York and Michael Biehn.
This weekend saw Warner Bros. hold sneak previews of Castle Rock Entertainment's PG-13 rated drama Hearts in Atlantis. For details see comments above by Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman in connection with Rock Star, the film whose theaters were used for the Hearts sneaks.
On the expansion front, this weekend saw MGM's hit comedy Legally Blonde go wider in its 11th week, providing some light entertainment for moviegoers wanting to escape briefly from television news.
The PG-13 comedy's expansion generated a sexy ESTIMATED $1.3 million at 1,304 theaters (+649 theaters; $998 per theater). Its cume is approximately $92.1 million.
Directed by Robert Luketic, it stars Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Matthew Davis, Victor Garber and Jennifer Coolidge with a special appearance by Raquel Welch.
MGM's release of United Artists' R rated youth appeal comedy Ghost World continued to widen in its tenth week, still holding well with an ESTIMATED $0.38 million (even) at 128 theaters (+26 theaters; $2,916 per theater). Its cume is approximately $4.7 million.
Directed by Terry Swigoff, it stars Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Brad Renfro, Illeana Douglas and Steve Buscemi.
Key films--those grossing more than $500,000--took in approximately $52.92 million, down about 5.6 per cent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $56.06 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down about 11.06 percent from last weekend of this year, when key films took in approximately $59.5 million.
Last year, Sony's opening week of Urban Legends: Final Cut was first with $8.51 million at 2,539 theaters ($3,350 per theater); and Warner Bros.' opening week of its reissue of The Exorcist was second with $8.18 million at 664 theaters ($12,313 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $15.7 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $13.4 million.