Author Stephanie Meyer unleashed a phenomenon with her Twilight novels a teen vampire romance that has spurned a teen cult following. The good news is the movie is surprisingly just as potent -- a spellbinding terribly romantic hypnotic and entertaining film. At its heart are the elements that make any teen drama work; in this case it’s forbidden love. It starts with 16 year-old Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) who relocates from her sunny Phoenix to the cold gray foreboding atmosphere of Forks Washington to live with her father. At her new high school she meets the incredibly attractive but mysterious Cullen clan including the allusive Edward (Robert Pattinson) who immediately intrigues her. What she doesn’t know yet is that Edward and his “family” are a group of vegetarian vampires who drink only animal blood and must live in the terminally cloudy region of Northwest. Edward tries to drive a determined Bella away by revealing his true identity but soon realizes she is the girl of his dreams. But as the two begin their complicated romance things get dicey when another group of um meat-lovin’ vampires target Bella. Teen Beat should clear their covers for a new group of stars sure to become huge with the female teen set -- and probably their mothers as well. Exuding a brooding reserve and air of mystery the follicley-endowed Robert Pattinson is reminiscent of James Dean and completely believable as a conflicted bloodsucker who becomes dangerously attracted to a mere mortal. His Edward’s unpredictable nature becomes irresistible for the attractive Kristen Stewart’s Bella as she grows closer to him despite his attempts to keep her at arm’s length. Not since Baby yearned for Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing has there been such an effective pairing for the acne-challenged set. Pattinson and Stewart simmer with teen angst and desire and could be the next big thing -- especially if there are more Twilight sequels to follow. The Cullen clan led by foster parents Peter Facinelli and Elizabeth Reaser is perfectly cast with a good looking bunch of vampiric thesps including newcomers Ashley Green Kellan Lutz Jackson Rathbone and Nikki Reed. Red-headed Rachelle LeFevre as bad vamp Victoria is ideal along with Cam Gigandet and Edi Gathegi as the guys in her group of nomadic vampires. Director Catherine Hardwicke has certainly shown she understands the ever-changing moods of youth with her previous efforts (Thirteen Lords of Dogtown). But those flicks were just warm-ups for what she taps into with Twilight. She creates a wonderful creepy kind of muted dark and cloudy society with imposing camera angles and aching teen lust from her bright red-lipped hormonally charged leads. And thankfully she leaves the fangs on the cutting room floor. These vampires are actually relatable and Hardwick takes what could have been an awful juvenile programmer and lifts it into a different league creating not only a movie that should cross over beyond it’s target demo but one that makes us genuinely excited for the inevitable sequels.
The spy games continue as yet more CIA operatives attempt to keep a nuclear bomb out of the hands of Uncle Sam-hating international terrorists.
Whereas last week's The Sum of All Fears depicted the threat of nuclear annihilation with grave solemnity, producer Jerry Bruckheimer's Bad Company plays it for laughs. Sort of.
Ticket scalper Chris Rock finds himself dodging bullets when his twin brother, a CIA agent, is killed in the line of duty. With Anthony Hopkins by his side, Rock assumes his twin brother's cover in order to retrieve a stolen nuclear bomb.
As with the satirical but equally unsatisfying Big Trouble, Bad Company was delayed last year in the wake of the tragic events of Sept. 11. Unlike Big Trouble, which bombed in April with a total $7.1 million, Bad Company should enjoy a strong debut on the strength of its unusual casting. Bruckheimer loves to launch his big, loud and vacuous action yarns in early June, with 1996's The Rock ($25.1 million opening, $134 million total), 1997's Con Air ($24.1 million opening; $101.1 million total) and 2000's Gone In 60 Seconds ($25.3 million opening, $101.6 million total) all becoming major summer draws.
Bad Company might open with $25 million, but it's unlikely reach the heights of The Rock, Con Air and Gone In 60 Seconds. Under Joel Schumacher's labored direction, Bad Company is neither exciting nor particularly witty. It's also a rather drab affair, which comes as a surprise considering Schumacher put the camp back into Batman. Hopkins looks bored and unenthusiastic about working with Rock. The comic throws out the occasional humorous remark, but he looks as uncomfortable holding a gun in Bad Company as he did in Lethal Weapon 4. Expect Bad Company to hit $60 million.
Accordingly, if bad word of mouth starts to spread, audiences might forsake Bad Company for the adrenaline rush of The Sum of All Fears or the out-and-out farce of Undercover Brother. It also doesn't help that next week sees the release of another spy-themed thriller, The Bourne Identity.
The Sum of All Fears should withstand Bad Company's arrival admirably. The Jack Ryan franchise clearly survived Ben Affleck replacing Harrison Ford as Tom Clancy's harried CIA analyst. The fourth Ryan film opened with a series-best $31.1 million. With $40.3 million through Wednesday, The Sum of All Fears will surpass the disappointing Patriot Games ($18.5 opening, $83.2 million total) with ease. It will likely fall short of Clear and Present Danger ($20.3 million opening, $122 million total) or The Hunt for Red October ($17.1 million opening, $120.7 million total) because of rivals Bad Company and The Bourne Identity.
Undercover Brother should continue to palate audiences eagerly awaiting Austin Powers in Goldmember. Eddie Griffin's spy spoof opened with a cool $12 million--better than Double Take ($11.7 million) and The New Guy ($9 million)--and has $15.2 million through Wednesday. Not even The Man can stop Undercover Brother from exceeding Double Take's $29.8 million total by at least $10 million.
To counterbalance the testosterone now overrunning movie theaters, Thelma & Louise screenwriter Callie Khouri unveils her directorial debut, the decidedly feminine Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
Based on the 1996 novel by Rebecca Wells, this tale of Southern belles stars Sandra Bullock as a playwright trying to cope with her eccentric mother (Ellen Burstyn), who is a key member of a circle of friends know as the Ya-Yas. Bullock's A Time to Kill co-star Ashley Judd plays the mother during flashbacks to the 1930s and 1940s.
Women apathetic to international espionage, superheroes and Jedi Knights should flock en masse to Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. So-called "chick flicks" tend to do well in the summer as an alternative to blockbusters bursting with shootouts, car chases and earthshaking explosions. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood should easily fall somewhere between the grosses of such similar summer offerings as Bullock's Hope Floats ($14.2 opening, $60.1 million total) and the Khouri-scripted Something to Talk About ($11.1 million opening, $50.8 million total).
Without the presence of a strong leading man to lure even so much as a marginal male audience, though, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood won't duplicate the success of other summer romances as Robert Redford's The Horse Whisperer ($75.3 million) or Clint Eastwood's The Bridges of Madison County ($71.5 million).
Still, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood should see Judd and Bullock regain their box office luster following the recent disappointing performances of their respective thrillers, High Crimes ($40.9 million through Sunday) and Murder by Numbers ($31.2 million through Sunday).
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood also hits theaters at a time when Diane Lane's Unfaithful, Hugh Grant's About a Boy and Jennifer Lopez's Enough are falling out of favor.
Unfaithful was always destined to lose steam once it faced the likes of Insomnia and Enough. With $46.7 million through Wednesday, the sexually charged thriller does represent Richard Gere's biggest hit--minus his Runaway Bride reunion with Pretty Woman co-star Julia Roberts--since 1997's The Jackal ($54.9 million). Unfaithful also may finally establish Lane as a viable box office prospect after such howlers as Hardball and The Glass House.
With $29.3 million through Wednesday, About a Boy looks set to become the least seen of such Grant-headlined, British-set comedies as Notting Hill ($116 million), Bridget Jones's Diary ($71.5 million) and Four Weddings and a Funeral ($52.7 million). Perhaps it has something to with the lack of an American female co-star?
Enough's quick fade--$29.3 million through Wednesday--suggests that the novelty of watching women kick butt in the movies, especially ones that rip off Julia Roberts' Sleeping with the Enemy, is wearing off fast. Lopez should have better luck when she returns at Christmas with the romantic comedy The Chambermaid.
The Force isn't quite with Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.
The fifth in George Lucas' space epic earned slightly better reviews than the maligned The Phantom Menace, but it's lagging behind its predecessor at the box office. Attack of the Clones dropped a worrying 56 percent in its third weekend, from $47.8 million to $21 million, vs. The Phantom Menace 36 percent drop, from $51.3 million to $32.8 million. Indeed, The Phantom Menace made $25.6 million in its fourth weekend.
Through Wednesday, its 21st day in release, Attack of the Clones has $238.9 million. The Phantom Menace amassed $263.6 million during the same period.
Attack of the Clones' troubling descent can be contributed to, among other factors, Spider-Man. The superhero supplanted Jurassic Park ($357 million) on Wednesday as the fifth highest-grossing film domestically by grossing a total $358.5 million. No film has made more money since, ironically, The Phantom Menace earned $431 million in 1999.
The Phantom Menace did not face similar competition early into its run. The anticipation surrounding the first Star Wars film in 16 years also enabled The Phantom Menace to overcome its overwhelmingly negative reviews.
At this rate, Attack of the Clones should wind up with a total somewhere between Return of the Jedi's $309.2 million and The Empire Strikes Back's $290.2 million. But barely breaking $300 million--and not earning more than the first installments in the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings sagas--must come as a disappointment for Lucas after The Phantom Menace's stellar showing.
Americanizing European thrillers rarely works. Something obviously got lost in the translation when it came to Point of No Return ($30 million), The Vanishing ($14.5 million) and Nightwatch ($1.1 million).
Not so with Insomnia, Memento director Christopher Nolan's chilling version of the clever Norwegian thriller of the same name. With $44.8 million through Wednesday, the Alaskan-set thriller is obviously benefiting from its intriguing cat-and-mouse game between fatigued cop Al Pacino and scheming killer Robin Williams. Pacino looks set to enjoy another moderate success on the scale of Devil's Advocate ($61 million). Williams could revive his flagging fortunes following such disappointments as Bicentennial Man ($58.2 million), Death to Smoochy ($8.3 million) and Jakob the Liar ($4.9 million).
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, which opened during the Memorial Day holiday, is further evidence that the days when traditional animation offerings ruled the box office are long gone. Spirit's $42.7 million total through Wednesday barely matches the opening weekend hauls of such CGI sensations as Ice Age ($46.3 million) and Shrek ($42.3 million). Spirit should gallop to about $60 million.
Indifferent reviews did not harm The Importance of Being Earnest. This star-studded adaptation of the Oscar Wilde play has made $1.4 million through Sunday at a maximum 147 theaters.
Also in limited release, My Big Fat Greek Wedding remains a well-attended affair. Now in its seventh week, the romantic comedy has $8.8 million. Y Tu Mama Tambien and Monsoon Wedding continue their extraordinary runs with, respectively, $11.5 million and $11.4 million through Sunday.
The code-breaking machinations of Enigma, though, isn't proving to be much of a thrill. The World War II drama starring Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet has a paltry $2 million after seven weeks. Coupled with the recent dismissal of Charlotte Gray, Enigma demonstrates that American audiences currently have little interest in World War II as seen through the eyes of the British.
That's how Ali came out in his Christmas Day bout at the box office.
The Michael Mann-directed biography overcame mixed reviews to punch up $10.2 million on its first day in release. That was not enough to knock out reigning champ The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which earned $11.4 million at 1,000 more theaters, but Ali did break the record for a Dec. 25 opening.
The mawkish Patch Adams held the previous record, opening on Christmas Day in 1998 with $8 million, on its way to a healthy $135 million.
Ali, dropping to $5.8 million on Wednesday, now has $16 million.
The future of the $105 million-plus Ali rests predominately on the beefed-up shoulders of a former Fresh Prince of Bel Air and whether audiences accept him as Muhammad Ali. Critics failed to enthusiastically embrace Will Smith's portrayal of arguably one of the most famous of all sports icons, although he did receive a Golden Globe nomination for his noble but flawed attempt to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.
Still, Ali should serve as a strong springboard for Smith to free himself of kicking alien butt and explore other dramatic possibilities.
With the legendary fights against Sonny Liston and George Foreman serving as bookends, Ali tries to be more than the typical recount of a real-life athlete's path to glory. Mann employs Ali's life as a means to explore racial and religious tension in the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, with the boxer's conversion to Islam given as much thought and detail as his efforts to gain and defend his heavyweight title.
Other recent race-driven sports biographies have gone the distance at the box office, including a pair of Denzel Washington offerings, The Hurricane ($50.6 million) and Remember the Titans ($115.6 million).
Ali, and the upcoming Men In Black 2, will allow Smith to regain his position as one of Hollywood's sure things. Smith became Mr. July Fourth when Independence Day and Men In Black opened huge in the summers of 1996 and 1997, respectively. Wild Wild West, another July Fourth holiday opening, tarnished Smith's reputation when the witless western failed to make more than $113.8 million.
Last year's The Legend of Bagger Vance, marking Smith's first dramatic endeavor since 1993's Six Degrees of Separation, could not muster more than $30.6 million.
Ali delivered a bruising blow to Kate & Leopold, pairing workaholic Meg Ryan with 19th-century blueblood Hugh Jackman. Miramax yanked the slow and corny time-traveling romantic comedy from Dec. 21 to avoid getting lost amid a slew of new releases. The ploy didn't work as well as expected, given that Kate & Leopold opened Dec. 25 with a quiet $2.5 million and has $5.1 million through Wednesday.
Kate & Leopold finds itself in the unique position of being the only mainstream offering for couples in the mood for love. Yet Ryan and Jackman face stiff competition for the adult audience in the form of Ali, the sturdy Ocean's Eleven, the waning Vanilla Sky, and such limited release offerings as A Beautiful Mind, The Royal Tenenbaums and Amelie.
Plus, even though she is very much in her element, Ryan looks extremely tired and bored with the notion of being wooed by a man from another time. Maybe she knew that hopping from one century to another didn't work not once, but twice, this year with Just Visiting and Black Knight. That's tough, because Ryan's not enjoyed a hit since 1998's You've Got Mail. Is it time for Ryan to call in a favor from Tom Hanks?
The jury is still out on Jackman, who shot to fame in 2000 as Wolverine in X-Men. He failed to sizzle opposite Ashley Judd in Someone Like You, which made just $27.3 million, and he got cuaght with his pants down in the repugnant cyberthriller Swordfish, which went offline at $69.7 million. Still, Jackman is Kate & Leopold's sole saving grace. The very personalization of charm and gallantry, Jackman could set many hearts on fires as the nobleman inadvertently removed from the New York City of his day.
Little doubt lingers now about the risk New Line took in sending director Peter Jackson off to New Zealand in 1999 with $270 million to film all three of The Lord of the Rings books back to back. Jackson's masterful adaptation of the first book, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, won over J.R.R. Tolkien fans and those completely unfamiliar with the quest to save for Middle-earth.
After debuting Wednesday, Dec. 18, with $18.1 million, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring seized the mantle as the biggest December weekend opening with its $47.2 million haul. The film broke the $100 million on Wednesday, and stands tall with $107.9 million in company coffers.
Jackson's epic looks set to dominate the box office for weeks to come, with $150 a certainty by the end of the year. Unlike Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring can count on the awards season to keep audiences spellbound by the adventures of Frodo Baggins.
Not that a certain apprentice wizard should worry. Harry Potter lost much of its magic this Christmas weekend--conjuring up an OK $10.7 million from Friday through Tuesday--but it now ranks as the year's top earner. Harry Potter's $271.1 million puts it slightly ahead of Shrek's $267.6 million, with $300 million a strong possibility.
Monsters, Inc. continues to close in on Shrek. The Disney/Pixar animated yarn scared up $5.6 million from Friday through Tuesday, with its total now at $227.9 million through Wednesday. Toy Story 2, released in 1999, remains the best grosser of all Disney/Pixar collaborations at $245.8 million.
Harry Potter and Monsters, Inc. no doubt lost some plenty of toddlers--and their parents--to the animated Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. Based on its name recognition, the Nickelodeon TV spin-off rocketed to a $13.8 million opening and has $22.5 million through Wednesday. That's well below the $27.3 million and $22.7 million openings of, respectively, The Rugrats Movie and Rugrats in Paris. But the boy genius looks like he has the smarts to zoom off with some serious cash.
Director Steven Soderbergh enjoyed his third consecutive $100 million smash Tuesday when Ocean's Eleven shot past $102 million in swag. The cool remake of the Rat Pack comic crime caper cashed in $106.6 million through Wednesday. Ocean's Eleven looks to head into 2002 and surpass Soderbergh's Erin Brockovich ($125.5 million) and Traffic ($124.1 million) at the box office.
Tom Cruise can't look forward to a good start to the New Year. As expected, Cruise's Vanilla Sky lost more than half its audience in its second weekend, dropping from $25 million to $12 million. Director Cameron Crowe's remake of the Spanish psychological thriller Abre los ojos (Open Your Eyes) has $52.5 million through Wednesday, almost equal to what Cruise's Eyes Wide Shut made in 1999. Lousy reviews and word of mouth will likely to thwart any chance of Vanilla Sky becoming Cruise's ninth film to top $100 million.
How High, with rappers Redman and Method Man as the 21st-century answer to Cheech & Chong, swiped away much of the audience from the spoof Not Another Teen Movie. How High, playing at a modest 1,266 theaters, smoked up $7.1 million in its opening weekend and has $11.2 million through Wednesday.
Not Another Teen Movie collapsed in its second weekend, dropping from $12.6 million to $5.2 million. Its total through Tuesday is $23.3 million.
The Majestic marked Jim Carrey's second consecutive dramatic flop, following 1999's Man on the Moon. Perhaps, post-Sept. 11, audiences are more interested in America engaging the enemy--hence the jingoistic Behind Enemy Lines' $45.1 million through Tuesday--than watching a community come to terms with the sacrifices required to win a war.
The Majestic opened with $4.9 million, and has $7.3 million through Tuesday, a low for Carrey since making a splash with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Man on the Moon, with Carrey as the late comedian Andy Kaufman, opened with $7.5 million on its way to $34.5 million.
Nobody put Joe Somebody on their must-see list. The workplace comedy, with Tim Allen battling bullying colleague Patrick Warburton, managed a terrible $3.5 million opening and has $5.3 million through Tuesday. That ranks as Allen's worst opening, well behind the $6 million opening that For Richer or Poorer cobbled together in December 1997. Little wonder Allen is suiting up for The Santa Clause 2.
In limited release, director Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind has $4.2 million through Wednesday. Excellent reviews, and a slew of Golden Globe nominations, will help this biography of mathematical genius John Forbes Nash Jr. to place high in the Top 10 when it expands Jan. 4. The same should apply to The Royal Tenenbaums when it goes wider this weekend. Director Wes Anderson's third quirky comedy, with Gene Hackman, amassed a regal $1.9 million from Friday through Tuesday at just 40 theaters, with its total at $2.4 million.
Director Lasse Hallstrom's bleak adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Shipping News opened to a so-so $318,000 at 186 theaters. Perhaps this is a sign that few may want a dose of the News when it expands Jan. 4.
The final spate of Oscar contenders arrive in a limited number of theaters this week, including Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down; Robert Altman's Gosford Park; I Am Sam, with Sean Penn; Monster's Ball, with Billy Bob Thornton; and Charlotte Gray, starring the hardest working new mother in Hollywood, Cate Blanchett.