Summit via Everett Collection
You can imagine that Renny Harlin, director and one quadrant of the writing team for The Legend of Hercules, began his pitch as such: We'll start with a war, because lots of these things start with wars. It feels like this was the principal maxim behind a good deal of the creative choices in this latest update of the Ancient Greek myth. There are always horse riding scenes. There are generally arena battles. There are CGI lions, when you can afford 'em. Oh, and you've got to have a romantic couple canoodling at the base of a waterfall. Weaving them all together cohesively would be a waste of time — just let the common threads take form in a remarkably shouldered Kellan Lutz and action sequences that transubstantiate abjectly to and fro slow-motion.
But pervading through Lutz's shirtless smirks and accent continuity that calls envy from Johnny Depp's Alice in Wonderland performance is the obtrusive lack of thought that went into this picture. A proverbial grab bag of "the basics" of the classic epic genre, The Legend of Hercules boasts familiarity over originality. So much so that the filmmakers didn't stop at Hercules mythology... they barely started with it, in fact. There's more Jesus Christ in the character than there is the Ancient Greek demigod, with no lack of Gladiator to keep things moreover relevant. But even more outrageous than the void of imagination in the construct of Hercules' world is its script — a piece so comically dim, thin, and idiotic that you will laugh. So we can't exactly say this is a totally joyless time at the movies.
Summit via Everett Collection
Surrounding Hercules, a character whose arc takes him from being a nice enough strong dude to a nice enough strong dude who kills people and finally owns up to his fate — "Okay, fine, yes, I guess I'm a god" — are a legion of characters whose makeup and motivations are instituted in their opening scenes and never change thereafter. His de facto stepdad, the teeth-baring King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), despises the boy for being a living tribute to his supernatural cuckolding; his half-brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan) is the archetypical scheming, neutered, jealous brother figure right down to the facial scar. The dialogue this family of mongoloids tosses around is stunningly brainless, ditto their character beats. Hercules can't understand how a mystical stranger knows his identity, even though he just moments ago exited a packed coliseum chanting his name. Iphicles defies villainy and menace when he threatens his betrothed Hebe (Gaia Weiss), long in love with Hercules, with the terrible fate of "accepting [him] and loving [their] children equally!" And the dad... jeez, that guy must really be proud of his teeth.
With no artistic feat successfully accomplished (or even braved, really) by this movie, we can at the very least call it inoffensive. There is nothing in The Legend of Hercules with which to take issue beyond its dismal intellect, and in a genre especially prone to regressive activity, this is a noteworthy triumph. But you might not have enough energy by the end to award The Legend of Hercules with this superlative. Either because you'll have laughed yourself into a coma at the film's idiocy, or because you'll have lost all strength trying to fend it off.
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Archeologist extraordinaire Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) and her team find a luminescent sphere located in an ancient underwater ruin in the Mediterranean Sea. Croft soon finds out the glowing orb is actually a map revealing the location of Pandora's Box a mythical box containing "life and death"--and a lot of really bad people including a Chinese crime syndicate boss named Chen Lo (Simon Yam) and his evil partner Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds)--want it. The battle is on as all three race for the box Croft to protect it and the others to turn it into a nifty doomsday weapon. The film strings one action sequence after the next as Croft fights evildoers in her around the world scavenger hunt for Pandora's box--and while some fit in most are gratuitous. There is Croft performing flips on her jet ski for example or Croft riding a motorcycle for what seems like an eternity through the hills in eastern China. The film plays out like the multilevel video game but unlike its PlayStation2 counterpart we have no control over the action. The extravagant stunts however cannot make up for the dry storyline that isn't gripping and ultimately fails to draw you in.
The concept behind Lara Croft is so fresh and intriguing that it's a shame Hollywood consistently traps the character in such shamefully bad storylines. As portrayed by Jolie Croft is the perfect female heroine; she's intelligent driven and tough and her life is absolutely fascinating. But while the first Tomb Raider movie gave us a wealth of information about Croft's character including her patronage education and what drives her as an explorer the sequel just hangs her out to dry. Too bad! If any actress can pull off a complex character like Croft it's definitely Jolie. Not only can she pull off the physical stunts but she also has developed little character quirks--i.e. the raised eyebrow quizzical look. But we never get a closer glimpse into Croft's life and the screenplay rarely allows her personality to emerge. There is an endearing scene in which Croft knocks on the door of a Chinese family and asks to borrow their television so she can hook up a video cam and send a message back home to England. The brief interaction Croft has with the little girl who sits and watches Croft in amazement is quite touching and it would have been nice to see more of this human side.
Dutch director Jan De Bont (Speed 2: Cruise Control) exhibits a flamboyant visual style here but Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life has little to offer other than its look. Most of the slick stunts for example are not only unnecessary but also unsound. One of the more preposterous action sequences has Croft slicing her arm underwater to attract a shark which she then punches in the nose before clutching on to its dorsal fin and pilfering a ride to the surface. Croft had just had her thigh torn open minutes earlier in a brawl. Couldn't she have squeezed some blood out of that wound rather than carve a new one? Never mind the fact that the shark then conveniently swims away and never comes back for a bite of its bleeding prey. But wait it gets worse: Croft then gets rescued while floating at sea by some Brits who show up on a Russian nuclear submarine. Little of it makes any sense. Shot in Greece Tanzania and Hong Kong De Bont shows some polished National Geographic-looking frame compositions that are unfortunately trapped within Dean Georgaris's lackluster screenplay.
Cats and Dogs reigned at the box office, fetching $21.6 million in ticket sales for Warner Bros.
Also driving the post-July Fourth weekend were high impact arrivals for Dimension Films' Scary Movie 2 and 20th Century Fox's Kiss of the Dragon and very encouraging sneaks for MGM's Legally Blonde.
The PG rated family appeal comedy Cats and Dogs from Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures and NPV Entertainment, combining live action with animation and special effects, captured first place with a purr-fectly beautiful ESTIMATED $21.6 million at 3,040 theaters ($7,240 per theater). Its cume after five days is approximately $35.7 million.
Cats opened Wednesday (July Fourth) with a slim lead over the holiday's other new wide release, the R rated Scary Movie 2 from Miramax's Dimension Films label. Both films benefited from widespread rain across the United States on July Fourth with Cats doing $9.02 million and Scary Movie 2scaring up $8.75 million. On Thursday, July 5 Scary Movie 2 took in $5.26 million while Cats grossed $5.03 million.
Cats' average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
"The great thing about Cats and Dogs is that it's been playing so well for family audiences," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "We're going to be around for a long time. You know, with all the movies coming in, there's really nothing for the young kids."
Focusing on Cats' first five days business, Fellman noted, "This gross beats the first seven days of Space Jam, which grossed $32 million for the week. That's been our largest Warner family film in our company's history. That went on to do $90 million (in domestic theaters). Just trying to look at something similar, Stuart Little, it grossed $27 million its whole first week. That went on to do $139 million (domestically). So I think we have a really good chance of exceeding the $100 million mark since we had such a great start.
"I assume we're going to do at least $40 million for the first week. And we have all this summer play time. We opened Space Jam at Thanksgiving so it didn't have the benefit of having a Saturday every single day (the way summer releases do)."
Dimension Films launched its R rated horror film spoof sequel Scary Movie 2 in second place with a killer ESTIMATED $21.0 million at 3,220 theaters ($6,521 per theater). Its cume after five days is approximately $34.5 million.
Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans, it stars Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Anna Faris, Regina Hall, Chris Masterson and Kathleen Robertson.
The original Scary Movie opened last July 9 to $42.35 million at 2,912 theaters ($14,542 per theater). It cost about $19 million to produce and went on to gross about $157 million in domestic theaters.
"We're very happy with the opening," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow said Sunday morning. "It's good enough that Bob (Weinstein, co-chairman of Miramax and head of the Dimension label) this morning is already talking about, maybe, another sequel. With this kind of opening we might see Scary Movie 3.
"Scary Movie 2 is poised to be the third highest week in the history of the company (after) Scary Movie and Scream 3. Obviously, from that we're very, very happy from a corporate standpoint. With $34.5 million in five days -- the budget was in the mid-$40 millions roughly -- we're in really good shape here."
Who was on hand this weekend? "Demographically it was pretty even male-female," Kaminow replied. "African-American audiences are really responding very, very well to the film. We think the play there is going to be long. And 18 to 24 is the solid core group, (which) is not surprising. The African-American (exit) scores were above average -- the Top Two Boxes in the 80 percents and the Definite Recommend in the low 80 percents as well, which is a great place to be.
Warner Bros. and DreamWorks' PG-13 rated sci-fi fantasy adventure A.I. Artificial Intelligence slid two pegs to third place in its second week with a quieter ESTIMATED $14.15 million (-52 percent) at 3,242 theaters (theater count unchanged; $4,363 per theater). Its cume is approximately $59.7 million.
Written and directed by Steven Spielberg, it was produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Spielbergand Bonnie Curtis. Starring are Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O'Connor, Brendan Gleeson and William Hurt.
"A.I. continues the pattern of other huge films that opened this summer," Warners' Dan Fellman said. "Fast and the Furious dropped 50 percent (its second weekend) and Tomb Raider dropped 59 percent. And both movies have already exceeded $100 million at the box office. I think we'll settle in and we'll play fine. We needed to settle in this week. We'll just continue to play. There's still a tremendous amount of interest in the movie and people are continuing to talk about it. We have our adult audience and they'll continue to drive the movie for quite a while."
20th Century Fox's R rated action drama Kiss of the Dragon kicked off in fourth place with a muscular ESTIMATED $13.64 million at 2,025 theaters ($6,736 per theater).
Directed by Chris Nahon, it stars Jet Li and Bridget Fonda.
"We're very pleased with it," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said Sunday morning. "It's in the area where we were hoping to be."
Noting that it's an extremely competitive marketplace, Snyder added, "It's even hard to figure out how much of a holiday or non-holiday this weekend was, the way the Fourth fell. But it looks like a real solid weekend. We've got six movies doing over $10 million this weekend."
Universal's PG-13 action drama The Fast and the Furious fell three rungs to fifth place in its third week with a slower ESTIMATED $12.4 million (-38 percent) at 2,804 theaters (+81 theaters; $4,405 per theater). Fast, which cost a modest $38 million, has a cume of approximately $101.5 million.
Directed by Rob Cohen and produced by Neal H. Moritz, it stars Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster.
20th Century Fox and Davis Entertainment's PG rated comedy sequel Dr. Dolittle 2 dropped three notches to sixth place in its third week with a less funny ESTIMATED $10.1 million (-36 percent) at 3,022 theaters (-31 theaters; $3,342 per theater). Its cume is approximately $71.5 million, heading for $100-105 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Steve Carr and produced by John Davis, it stars Eddie Murphy.
Paramount and Mutual Film Company's PG-13 rated action adventure Lara Croft: Tomb Raider slipped three slots in its fourth week with a weaker ESTIMATED $6.8 million (-33 percent) at 3,010 theaters (-339 theaters; $2,259 per theater). Its cume is approximately $115.6 million, heading for $130 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Simon West, Tomb stars Angelina Jolie.
DreamWorks' PG rated computer animated blockbuster Shrek dropped one rung to eighth place in its eighth week, still holding well with an ESTIMATED $6.0 million (-22 percent) at 2,107 theaters (-597 theaters; $2,855 per theater). Its cume is approximately $240.6 million heading for $250 million-plus in domestic theaters.
Directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, its voice talents include Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow.
Buena Vista/Disney's PG rated animated feature Atlantis fell three pegs in its fifth week to ninth place with a less turbulent ESTIMATED $5.0 million (-39 percent) at 2,272 theaters (-758 theaters; $2,201 per theater). Its cume is approximately $69.4 million.
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, its voice talents include Michael J Fox, James Garner, Cree Summer and Leonard Nimoy.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Columbia's R rated African-American appeal drama Baby Boy, down five pegs in its second week and packing less punch with an ESTIMATED $4.8 million (-44 percent) at 1,533 theaters (theater count unchanged; $3,131 per theater). Made for about $16 million, its cume is approximately $20.8 million, heading for a profitable $30 million in domestic theaters.
Written, produced and directed by John Singleton, it stars Tyrese Gibson, Snoop Dogg and Ving Rhames.
This weekend also saw Lions Gate Films' unrated erotic drama Lost and Delirious arrive to a not very arousing ESTIMATED $0.045 million at 7 theaters ($6,440 per theater).
Directed by Lea Pool, it stars Piper Perabo.
Miramax's R rated comedy Everybody's Famous opened to a quiet ESTIMATED $0.017 million at 4 theaters ($4,250 per theater).
Written and directed by Dominique Deruddere, it stars Josse De Pauw.
"That goes to about 10 runs on Friday," Miramax's David Kaminow said.
This weekend saw MGM hold very encouraging sneak previews Friday night at about 818 theaters of its PG-13 rated comedy Legally Blonde.
Directed by Robert Luketic, the Marc Platt production stars Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Matthew Davis, Victor Garber and Jennifer Coolidge with a special appearance by Raquel Welch. Produced by Platt and Ric Kidney, its screenplay by Karen McCullah Lutz & Kirsten Smith is based on the book by Amanda Brown.
Blonde will open Friday at over 2,000 theaters.
MGM said Blonde was sneaked in 101 markets, playing to 75 percent of capacity and that 50 percent of its showings were sold out. Those on hand for the sneaks were 25 percent under the age of 18 and 45 percent between 18 and 25. Women accounted for about two-thirds of the ticket sales.
"It was really a very, very good sneak," MGM marketing and distribution president Bob Levin said Sunday morning. "Very strong. In the exits we do, we've got close to 90 percent in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) and a very strong over-75 percent Definite Recommend. Those are the kind of numbers you really hope you get in sneaks because you're trying to drive word of mouth and those are the kind of numbers you need to drive word of mouth. So we're very pleased."
Levin, a well regarded industry veteran who previously headed marketing at Sony Pictures Entertainment and Disney, joined MGM in late June as the studio's distribution and marketing chief.
Asked how the idea of sneaking Blonde came about, Levin explained, "What happened is we had a great reaction to the film at the premiere (held on June 26) and it was one of the exhibitors who happened to mention it to one of our distribution executives and it seemed like a great idea. So we immediately decided to adopt it (and thought) we should sneak it. This is the perfect kind of movie to sneak, where you aren't being driven by a huge potential fixed marketing opening but you have a movie that really plays well. So why not sneak it?"
Who is the target audience for Blonde? "Well, certainly more female than male," Levin replied. "But we have found in the exits we've done that actually guys like the movie as well, but it has to be (regarded as) slightly more female than male. What has been shown through these sneaks is that the actual likeability of the film is across a broad spectrum -- from even pre-teens all the way through what we categorize as older women (those 30 and older)."
Although the marketplace is crowded with product, there's really nothing like Blonde in theaters now. "I think that's why we have a tremendous opportunity," Levin observed. "And that's why the sneaks made sense because we get to advance the word of mouth. This kind of response that these numbers suggest is the response you get where people show up Monday at work or school or camp or wherever they are and really talk about the movie. So it's great on that kind of basis. I think, hopefully, we really do have sort of a unique offering in the marketplace right now."
Blonde marks the start of what could be a strong second half of the year for MGM. "I think we're about ready to, hopefully, do some very good business through the end of the year on a number of different films," Levin noted.
Among the releases upcoming via MGM are the suspense thriller Original Sin, directed by Michael Christofre and starring Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas, and the horror genre film Jeepers Creepers, directed by Victor Salva and starring Gina Philips, both opening in August.
Arriving in September is the drama Deuces Wild, directed by Scott Kalvert and starring Fairuza Balk, Stephen Dorff and Matt Dillon.
October will bring Bandits, directed by Barry Levinson and starring Bruce Willis, Cate Blanchett and Billy Bob Thornton, and Killing Me Softly, directed by Chen Kaige and starring Heather Graham and Joseph Fiennes.
In November MGM has the action adventure Windtalkers, directed by John Woo and starring Nicolas Cage, Adam Beach and Christian Slater.
The studio's action adventure fantasy Rollerball, directed by John McTiernan and starring Chris Klein, L.L. Cool J and Jean Reno, was recently moved from August to early next year.
On the expansion front, this weekend saw Fox Searchlight's R rated critically acclaimed British crime thriller Sexy Beast continue to widen in its fourth week, still showing good legs with an ESTIMATED $0.71 million (even) at 134 theaters (+25 theaters; $5,325 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.1 million.
Directed by Jonathan Glazer, it stars Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley.
"We feel very good," Fox Searchlight distribution president Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning. "We opened a lot of new smaller markets that did quite well. In the fourth week, we're holding extremely well and we're quite pleased. The film seems to be settling in and getting good word of mouth. The holdovers still did quite nicely. The holdovers fell less than 20 percent, so we're very pleased with that."
Where does it go from here? "Well, this week we add another round of theaters," Gilula replied. "We're going to add 30 screens and go into another 20 markets or so, a bunch of smaller cities (like) Albuquerque, Pittsburgh, Boise, Buffalo and we'll just keep going. As long as the momentum continues, we'll just keep expanding every week. We'll probably get up to, I would think, around 200 runs. Some of the smaller runs will come off, but we'll just keep moving the prints around the country."
With its cume now at about $3.1 million, Gilula said, "We're clearly going to get past $5 million, which for this film will be very successful for us. It's already a financial success for us. My estimate goes up a little each week because of how well the runs are holding in the big cities."
Fine Line Features' R rated comedy The Anniversary Party went a little wider in its fifth week with a still bubbly ESTIMATED $0.45 million (+9 percent) at 107 theaters (+4 theaters; $4,245 per theater). Its cume is approximately $2.6 million.
Written and directed by Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh, its ensemble cast includes Jane Adams, Jennifer Beals, Phoebe Cates, Alan Cumming, Kevin Kline, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gwyneth Paltrow, Parker Posey and John C. Reilly.
Lions Gate Films' PG-13 rated drama Songcatcher continued to widen in its fourth week with a dull ESTIMATED $0.25 million at 67 theaters (+30 theaters; $3,690 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.61 million.
Directed by Maggie Greenwald, it stars Janet McTeer and Aidan Quinn.
Miramax's R rated French comedy The Closet went wider in its second week with a still promising ESTIMATED $0.21 million at 16 theaters (+12 theaters; $13,043 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.38 million.
Directed by Francis Veber, it stars Daniel Auteuil, Gerard Depardieu, Thierry Lhermitte and Michele Laroque.
"This Friday it will probably expand to about 30 to 40 runs," Miramax's David Kaminow said.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $129.3 million, down about 6.45 percent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $138.2 million.
This weekend's key film gross was up about 5.42 percent from last weekend this year when key films took in $122.65 million.
Last year, Dimension Films' opening week of Scary Movie was first with $42.35 million at 2,912 theaters ($14,542 per theater); and Warner Bros.' second week of The Perfect Storm was second with $27.12 million at 3,407 theaters ($7,960 per theater).The top two films one year ago grossed $69.4 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $43.0 million.