The Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon has bought a lame thoroughbred horse in a bid to save him from the track. The philanthropist, who is battling terminal cancer, put up the funds to buy Valediction, after the horse appeared in a PETA expose video. The footage featured videotaped evidence of chronic misuse of drugs to enhance horses' performance and mask their injuries.
PETA discovered that Valediction's legs were covered with circular, evenly spaced scars - the result of freeze-firing, the cruel practice of burning horses' legs with liquid nitrogen to try to stimulate blood flow. After racing in Saratoga, New York in August (13), Valediction's ankles were so swollen that he had to be transported out of a test barn in a trailer. His trainer Rudy Rodriguez was then told by a state veterinarian, "This horse is lame."
The animal underwent surgery for his injures and he was purchased by a PETA agent on behalf of Simon in February (14), when another veterinarian declared the horse was so arthritic that he could never race again. Simon tells WENN, "I was not in the best of shape when I saw PETA's video and heard about the condition of this horse, Valediction, but it was immediately clear the horse was in deep trouble. "He had been run on bad legs to start with and had clearly been injured during the race and had stood there shaking, unable to put weight on his feet."
Valediction has been transported to a farm in Virginia, where he'll live out his life in peace and safety. Simon adds, "When I see him in his blanket eating carrots, I know I helped one great horse... escape the track and live in clover until the day he dies."
The trailers for Hope Springs might lead you to believe it's a romantic comedy about a couple trying to jumpstart their sexless marriage but it causes more empathetic cringing than chuckles. Audiences will be drawn to Hope Springs by its stars Meryl Streep Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell and Streep's track record of pleasing summer movies like Julie & Julia and Mamma Mia! that offer a respite from the blockbusters flooding theaters. Despite what its marketing might have you believe Hope Springs isn't a rom-com. The film is a disarming mixture of deeply intimate confessions by a married couple in the sanctuary of a therapist's office awkwardly honest attempts by that couple to physically reconnect and incredibly sappy scenes underscored by intrusive music. Boldly addressing female desire especially in older women it's hard not to give the movie extra credit for what writer Vanessa Taylor's script is trying to convey and its rarity in mainstream film. The ebb and flow of intimacy and desire in a long-term relationship is what drives Hope Springs and while there are plenty contrived moments and unresolved issues it is frankly surprising and surprisingly frank. It's a summer release from a major studio with high caliber stars aimed squarely at the generally underserved 50+ audience addressing the even more taboo topic of that audience's sex life.
Streep plays Kay a suburban wife who's deeply unsatisfied emotionally and sexually by her marriage to Arnold. Arnold who is played by Tommy Lee Jones as his craggiest sleeps in a separate bedroom now that their kids have left the nest; he's like a stone cold robot emotionally and physically and Kay tiptoes around trying to make him happy even as he ignores her every gesture. One of the most striking scenes in the movie is at the very beginning when Kay primps and fusses over her modest sleepwear in the hopes of seducing her husband. Streep makes it obvious that this isn't an easy thing for Kay; it takes all her guts to try and wordlessly suggest sex to her husband and when she's shot down it hurts to watch. This isn't a one time disconnect between their libidos; this is an ongoing problem that leaves Kay feeling insecure and undesirable.
After a foray into the self-help section of her bookstore Kay finds a therapist who holds week-long intensive couples' therapy sessions in Good Hope Springs ME and in a seemingly unprecedented moment of decisiveness she books a trip for the couple. Arnold of course is having none of it but he eventually comes along for the ride. That doesn't mean he's up for answering any of Dr. Feld's questions though. To be fair Dr. Feld (Carell) is asking the couple deeply intimate questions so if Arnold is comfortable foisting his amorous wife off with the excuse he had pork for lunch it's not so far-fetched to believe he'd be angry when Feld asks him about his fantasy life or masturbation habits.
Although Arnold gets a pass on some of his issues Kay is forthright about why and how she's dissatisfied. When Dr. Feld asks her if she masturbates she says she doesn't because it makes her too sad. Kay offers similar revelations; she's willing to bare it all to revive her marriage while Arnold thinks the fact that they're married at all means they must be happy. Carell's Dr. Feld is soothing and kind (even a bit bland) but it's always a pleasure to see him play it straight.
It's subversive for a mega-watt star to play a character that talks about how sexually unsatisfied she is and how unsexy she feels with the man she loves most in the world. The added taboo of Kay and Arnold's age adds that much more to the conversation. Kay and Arnold's attempts at intimacy are emotionally raw and hard to watch. Even when things get funny they're mostly awkward funny not ha-ha funny.
The rest of the movie is a little uneven wrapped up tightly and happily by the end. Their time spent soul-searching alone is a little cheesy especially when Kay ends up in a local bar where she gets a little dizzy on white wine while dishing about her problems to the bartender (Elisabeth Shue). Somewhere along the line what probably started out as a character study ended up as a wobbly drama that pushes some boundaries but eventually lets everyone off the emotional hook in favor of a smoothed-over happy ending. Still its disarming moments and performances almost balance it out. Although its target audience might be dismayed to find it's not as light-hearted as it would seem Hope Springs offers up the opportunity for discussion about sexuality and aging at a time when books and films like 50 Shades of Grey and Magic Mike are perking up similar conversations. In the end that's a good thing.
Hollywood's summer, which came in like a lion with Spider-Man in early May, went out like a lamb over Labor Day weekend with ticket sales down nearly 12 percent from last year.
Nonetheless, there were strong holiday weekend ticket sales for two of the summer's big successes -- Signs and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Both pictures have performed very considerably better than insiders ever expected.
Signs, the summer's last mega-blockbuster to arrive, remained posted in first place with $15.8 million for four days. It is this summer's only film to place first for three weeks. Although no film did it consecutively, Signs was number one its opening weekend and then returned to the top spot in weekends four and five. With its cume now over $194 million and heading for $225 million,Signs ranks as Mel Gibson's biggest grossing film ever, eclipsing What Women Want with $182.5 million.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the summer's sleeper hit, added 290 engagements and soared to second place with $14.1 million. Made for only about $5 million, its cume is now $81.5 million and on its way to an enormously profitable $100 million.
XXX nailed down third place with $12.6 million. feardotcom logged on quietly in fourth place with $6.6 million. Austin Powers in Goldmember rounded out the top five with $6.5 million.
With no new openings to drive ticket sales, key films -- those grossing $500,000 or more -- fell 11.8 percent from last year with $100.1 million for four days versus $113.5 million last Labor Day weekend. This was the seventh consecutive weekend in which the marketplace was down compared to last year.
Hollywood was happy to see that Sunday's weather map showed rain up and down the East Coast as well as along the Gulf Coast and in parts of the mid-west. That could give Sunday ticket sales across the board a boost and help raise today's estimates a notch when they are fine tuned Monday.
THE TOP TEN
Today's grosses are for the four day holiday period from Friday through Monday and reflect industry estimates circulating Sunday morning. Studios will announce their four day estimates Monday and will release final figures Tuesday. Percentage comparisons are not indicated today because the prior weekend was a regular three day weekend.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13 rated supernatural thriller blockbuster Signs held solidly atop the chart in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $15.8 million at 3,437 theaters (-16 theaters; $4,597 per theater). Its cume is approximately $194.2 million, heading for $225 million. (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $12.9 million.)
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, it stars Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.
"By the way, the last movie to be number one in its fifth week was The Sixth Sense," a spokesperson for BV pointed out Sunday morning. Sixth Sense, of course, was also directed by Shyamalan.
"It's remarkable to think we finally have a picture this summer that was number one for three weeks," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "Everything else seems to have had two weeks and then got bumped off. We only had one week (in first place) and then we came back and picked up two more. The legs of this picture really speak volumes for how much the public likes the movie.
"Yesterday (Saturday), the picture became Mel Gibson's highest grossing film ever. And we still have probably $30 million worth of gross left. What Women Want did (about) $182 million. That as Mel's biggest picture."
Focusing on Signs' success, Viane observed, "It's the movie. The movie is playing great and the audience is responding that way. There's not many pictures that come into a Labor Day weekend and actually go up in gross over the previous weekend and this is one of them."
IFC Films' release of Gold Circle Films and HBO's PG rated romantic comedy sleeper hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding continued to expand in its 20th week, rising two pegs to second place with an amazingly hot ESTIMATED $14.13 million at 1,619 theaters (+290 theaters; $8,727 per theater). Its cume is approximately $81.9 million, heading for $100 million or more in domestic theaters. (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $11.1 million.)
Wedding's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Directed by Joel Zwick, it stars Nia Vardalos and John Corbett.
Revolution Studios and Columbia's PG-13 rated action adventure thriller XXX slipped one notch to third place in its fourth week with a still muscular ESTIMATED $12.6 million at 3,536 theaters (+19 theaters; $3,550 per theater). Its cume is approximately $123.3 million. (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $10.2 million.)
Directed by Rob Cohen and produced by Neal H. Moritz, it stars Vin Diesel, Asia Argento and Marton Csokas.
MDP Worldwide's R rated horror film feardotcom opened in fourth place to a weak ESTIMATED $6.6 million at 2,550 theaters ($2,588 per theater). (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $5.6 million.)
Directed by William Malone, it stars Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone and Stephen Rea. It was produced by Moshe Diamant and Limor Diamant and executive produced by Elie Samaha, Andrew Stevens, David Saunders, Mark Damon, Rudy Cohen, Frank Hubner and Romain Schroeder.
feardotcom is being distributed by Warner Bros. through its overall rent-a-system deal with Samaha's Franchise Films.
New Line's PG-13 rated comedy sequel Austin Powers in Goldmember rose two rungs to fifth place in its sixth week with a less amusing ESTIMATED $6.5 million at 2,506 theaters (-299 theaters; $2,594 per theater). Its cume is approximately $202.9 million. (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $5.2 million.)
Directed by Jay Roach, it stars Mike Myers, Beyonce Knowles and Michael Caine.
Miramax/Dimension Films' PG rated family comedy sequel Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams slipped three pegs to sixth place in its fourth week with a slow ESTIMATED $6.3 million at 3,250 theaters (-57 theaters; $1,938 per theater). Its cume is approximately $68.1 million. (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $5.3 million.)
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, it stars Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino.
Universal and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13 rated romantic surfer girl comedy Blue Crush fell two waves to seventh place in its third week with a less sexy ESTIMATED $5.23 million at 2,820 theaters (-195 theaters; $1,855 per theater). Its cume is approximately $34.4 million.
Directed by John Stockwell and produced by Brian Grazer and Karen Kehela, it stars Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis, Sanoe Lake and Mika Boorem.
Paramount and Mandalay's PG-13 rated comedy Serving Sara dropped two posts to eighth place in its second week with an unfunny ESTIMATED $4.4 million at 2,174 theaters ($2,045 per theater). Its cume is approximately $12.0 million.
Directed by Reginald Hudlin, it stars Matthew Perry and Elizabeth Hurley.
Fox Searchlight Pictures' R rated comedy The Good Girl went wider in its fourth week and placed ninth with a still impressive ESTIMATED $3.5 million at 667 theaters (+479 theaters; $5,247 per theater). Its cume is approximately $7.1 million. (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $2.7 million.)
Directed by Miguel Arteta, it stars Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal and John C. Reilly.
"It's a terrific expansion," Fox Searchlight distribution president Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning. "The film is playing very well across the country in large and small cities, suburban and urban areas. I think people are intrigued by the nature of the story. It has hilarious moments and it also has some dark moments and some very touching family and very personal moments.
"It's a very distinctive film that people have interest in. The ensemble performances of Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal and the rest of the cast really have generated a lot of word of mouth."
Based on Sunday morning estimates there was a close race for tenth place. DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox's R rated adult appeal drama Road To Perdition, which was 11th last week, tied for tenth place in its eighth week with an okay ESTIMATED $3.1 million at 1,763 theaters (-100 theaters; $1,758 per theater). Its cume is approximately $98.1 million. (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $2.4 million.)
Directed by Sam Mendes, it stars Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law.
Fox Searchlight Pictures' R rated thriller One Hour Photo, which began expanding in its second week, tied for tenth place with a very encouraging ESTIMATED $3.1 million at 163 theaters ($19,018 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.6 million. (Its three day gross was an ESTIMATED $2.5 million.)
Written and directed by Mark Romanek, it stars Robin Williams.
"This is another very distinctive film, a very singular vision of the writer-director Mark Romanek," Fox Searchlight's Stephen Gilula said. "He got a terrific performance out of Robin Williams. It has clearly captivated the public and was done largely with word of mouth. We haven't done much in advertising. But I think that (its success reflects) Robin Williams' performance, which has been talked about a lot, combined with a very, very compelling concept -- that the man that develops your photos could be watching you and looking at your life. Everyone understands that concept. It's a very mesmerizing performance and a very chilling, creepy movie.
"Both The Good Girl and One Hour Photo really stand out at the end of summer. The big movies have all played and if you want to go out and see something that's more stimulating and thought provoking, (these are perfect choices). We're very, very pleased and very fortunate how well these films (have been embraced by moviegoers)."
TOP SUMMER GROSSING FILMS
This summer's top grossing films -- releases that have either grossed $100 million-plus or are clearly on the track to do so shortly -- are ranked below according to their approximate cumes through Labor Day weekend:
(1) Spider-Man - Columbia Pictures - $403.7 million
(2) Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones - 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm - $300.6 million
(3) Austin Powers in Goldmember - New Line Cinema - $202.9 million
(4) Signs -- Buena Vista/Touchstone - $194.2 million
(5) Men In Black II - Columbia Pictures - $190.2 million
(6) Scooby-Doo - Warner Bros. - $151.9 million
(7) Lilo & Stitch - Buena Vista/Disney - $141.6 million
(8) Minority Report - 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Pictures - $130.6 million
(9) Mr. Deeds - Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures - $124.2 million
(10) XXX - Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures - $123.3 million
(11) The Sum Of All Fears - Paramount Pictures - $118.3 million
(12) The Bourne Identity - Universal Pictures - $118.0 million
(13) Road To Perdition - DreamWorks Pictures and 20th Century Fox - $98.1 million
(14) My Big Fat Greek Wedding - IFC Films - $81.9 million
This summer produced a dozen films that cracked $100 million and two others that are about to do so. Last summer 10 films hit $100 million and three films wound up grossing in the low $90 millions. Last summer's top grossing film, DreamWorks' animated feature Shrek, grossed $262.9 million.
Notably lacking from the list of summer successes starring superstars is Paramount and InterMedia Films' costly budget action adventure K-19: The Widowmaker, starring Harrison Ford, one of the summer's biggest disappointments. After opening to negative reviews, the Russian nuclear submarine drama sank immediately at the box office. Its cume is approximately $34.4 million.
Also not making the superstar success list is Warner Bros.' The Adventures of Pluto Nash, starring Eddie Murphy. It, too, was slaughtered by the critics and opened poorly. Its cume is approximately $4 million.
TOP TEN SUMMER OPENINGS
This summer's Top Ten films ranked by their opening weekend grosses were:
(1) Spider-Man - Columbia Pictures - $114.8 million
(2) Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones - 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm - $80.0 million
(3) Austin Powers in Goldmember - New Line Cinema - $73.1 million
(4) Signs -- Buena Vista/Touchstone - $60.1 million
(5) Scooby-Doo - Warner Bros. - $54.2 million
(6) Men In Black II - Columbia Pictures - $52.1 million
(7) XXX - Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures - $44.5 million
(8) Mr. Deeds - Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures - $37.2 million
(9) Minority Report - 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Pictures - $35.7 million
(10) Lilo & Stitch - Buena Vista/Disney - $35.3 million
This weekend also saw the arrival of Sony Pictures Classics' R rated Spanish drama Mad Love to an okay ESTIMATED $29,000 at 3 theaters ($9,798 per theater).
Directed by Vicente Aranda, it stars Pilar Lopez de Ayala.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend Focus Features' romantic drama Possession went wider in its third week to a promising ESTIMATED $2.4 million at 612 theaters (+269 theaters; $3,985 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.4 million.
Directed by Neil LaBute, it stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart.
Buena Vista/Disney's PG rated animated family appeal feature Lilo & Stitch widened again over Labor Day weekend in its 11th week to mop up an ESTIMATED $1.2 million at 1,653 theaters (+1,175 theaters; $765 per theater). Its cume is approximately $141.6 million.
Written and directed by Chris Sanders, it was produced by Clark Spencer.
Paramount Classics' PG rated German romantic comedy Mostly Martha went wider in its third week with an okay ESTIMATED $0.5 million at 66 theaters (+39 theaters; $7,245 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.8 million.
Written and directed by Sandra Nettelbeck, it stars Martina Gedeck.
United Artists' R rated comedy 24 Hour Party People, released through MGM, continued to widen and hold well in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $0.18 million at 32 theaters (+9 theaters; $5,595 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.6 million.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom, it stars Steve Coogan.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $100.05 million for the four day weekend, down 11.82 percent from last year when they totaled $113.46 million for four days.
Key films cannot be compared to the previous weekend of this year, which was a regular three day weekend.
Last year, MGM's opening week of Jeepers Creepers was first with $15.83 million at 2.944 theaters ($5,378 per theater); and New Line's fourth week of Rush Hour 2 was second with $11.71 million at 2,825 theaters ($4,146 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $27.5 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $29.9 million.