There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.
Christmas weekend was a tough one at the box office with overall revenues down 45% vs. the same weekend a year ago.
The latest installment in the successful comedy franchise that started 10 years ago, Universal’s Little Fockers is poised to bring yet another number one debut home for Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro. Meet the Parents was the 7th highest grossing release of year 2000 earning $166.2 million in the wake of a weekend debut of $28.6 million. Its sequel, 2004’s Meet the Fockers switched to the holiday season by opening on Wednesday December 22 and earned $46.1 million in its first weekend and a whopping $70.5 million in its first five days on its way to becoming the 4th highest grossing film of that year with $279.2 million. This latest Fockers landed between the first two with $34 million for the weekend and $48.3 million in its first five days.
True Grit is a very worthy re-make of the 1969 film starring John Wayne as the crusty Rooster Cogburn, Glen Campbell as La Boeuf, Jeff Corey as Tom Chaney and Kim Darby as Mattie Ross. The Coen Brothers make a very faithful adaptation of the Charles Portis novel while paying homage to the original film and at the same time putting their signature visual stamp on the film. With Jeff Bridges as Cogburn, Matt Damon as La Boeuf and Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney and incredible newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, True Grit is an Oscar contender for sure and has been on the top of many a moviegoer’s must-see list for months. A much bigger-than-expected debut of $25.6 million for the weekend and an impressive $36.8 million for the Wednesday through Sunday time frame make this one a true winner. Look for “True Grit” to be a long term performer at the box office well into 2011.
Last weekend’s number one film Tron: Legacy from Disney landed in the third spot with $20.1 million over the Christmas weekend and is now closing in on the $90 million mark. The action sci-fi film has done well all mid-week with impressive daily grosses is maintaining a solid audience base through the holidays. Interestingly this gave Jeff Bridges a rare opportunity to become Mr. Box Office with the number two and three films for the weekend.
Fourth and fifth place saw two PG-rated family films going at it with Fox’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in its third weekend earning $10.8 million and Warner Bros.’ Yogi Bear right behind it with $8.8 million. Both films gave kids and families a great option for their post and pre-Christmas shopping entertainment. Of course this bottleneck also included the second week of wide release for Paramount’s The Fighter which continues to draw accolades across the board and earned $8.5 million for the weekend and a domestic total that is closing in on the $30 million mark. Another newcomer in the mix is Twentieth Century Fox’s Friday opener Gulliver’s Travels starring Jack Black earning which opened in the seventh spot with $7.2 million.
In specialized film news, Weinstein Co.’s brilliant The King’s Speech expanded into 700 theatres nationwide on Christmas Day and cracked the top 12 earning $4.5 million as Sophia Coppola’s “Somewhere” earned over $20,000 per theatre in its 7 theatre debut.
Lionsgate’s Rabbit Hole ended XMAS day with a gross of $40,792 in 34 locations ($1,200 per theatre). A 3-Day weekend gross of $95,200 lifts the overall total for the film through Sunday to $176,000.
A 45% downturn vs. Christmas weekend a year ago sets up a slow end to the box office year of 2010 as specialized films and Oscar contenders reap the benefits of a lack of enthusiasm for the mainstream blockbusters. This was an important weekend at the movies as the year draws to a close, the final wide releases enter the marketplace and Oscar contenders continue to make their mark and impress audiences.
Weekend Box Office
Top 10 Movies - For Weekend of December 24, 2010 - Estimates
Movie Weekend Total
1 Little Fockers (PG-13) $34.0 M $48.3 M
2 True Grit (PG-13) $25.6 M $36.8 M
3 Tron: Legacy (PG) $20.1 M $88.3 M
4 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (PG) $10.8 M $63.9 M
5 Yogi Bear (PG) $8.8 M $36.8 M
6 The Fighter (R) $8.5 M $27.6 M
7 Gulliver's Travels (PG) $7.2 M $7.2 M
8 Black Swan (R) $6.6 M $29.0 M
9 Tangled (PG) $6.5 M $143.8 M
10 The Tourist (PG-13) $5.7 M $41.2 M
The final three wide releases of the year hope to bring some Christmas cheer back to the Box-Office with Little Fockers, True Grit and Gulliver’s Travels.
The latest installment in the successful comedy franchise that started 10 years ago, Universal’s “Little Fockers” is poised to bring yet another number one debut home for Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro. Meet the Parents was the 7th highest grossing release of year 2000 earning $166.2 million in the wake of a weekend debut of $28.6 million. Its sequel, 2004’s Meet the Fockers switched to the holiday season by opening on Wednesday December 22 and earned $46.1 million in its first weekend and a whopping $70.5 million in its first five days on its way to becoming the 4th highest grossing film of that year with $279.2 million. This latest Fockers should land somewhere between the first two in the high $20 million to low $30 million range for the weekend.
Last weekend’s number one film Tron: Legacy from Disney will race into the second spot with between $20 million and $25 million over the Christmas weekend on its way to $80 million and beyond. The action sci-fi film has done well mid-week with an impressive $6 million on Monday alone and should therefore maintain a solid audience base through the holidays. Interestingly this sets up a rare opportunity for Jeff Bridges to become Mr. Box Office and have two films in in the top five.
True Grit is a very worthy re-make of the 1969 film starring John Wayne as the crusty Rooster Cogburn, Glen Campbell as La Boeuf, Jeff Corey as Tom Chaney and Kim Darby as Mattie Ross. The Coen Brothers make a very faithful adaptation of the Charles Portis novel while paying homage to the original film and at the same time putting their signature visual stamp on the film. With Jeff Bridges as Cogburn, Matt Damon as La Boeuf and Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney and incredible newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, “True Grit” is an Oscar contender for sure and has been on the top of many a moviegoer’s must-see list for months. With its main target being older moviegoers the film will open Wednesday but hit its stride on the evening of Christmas Day when adults with renewed free time will seek out the film and help it to earn in the mid-teens for the weekend and a likely $20 million for the Wednesday through Sunday time frame. Look for this to be a long term performer at the box office well into 2011.
Fourth and fifth place will find a newcomer in the mix with Twentieth Century Fox’s Friday opener Gulliver’s Travels starring Jack Black earning in the sub $10 million range along with Warner Bros.’ Yogi Bear which will likely land in a similar range in its second weekend of release and benefit from kids and families looking for a fun holiday movie treat. Of course this bottleneck could also include the second week of wide release for Paramount’s The Fighter which continues to draw accolades across the board.
In other specialized film news, Weinstein Co.’s brilliant The King’s Speech expands into 600 theatres nationwide on Christmas Day.
An important weekend at the movies as the year draws to a close, the final wide releases enter the marketplace and Oscar contenders continue to make their mark and impress audiences.
Disney, Miramax Take Spat Outside
Miramax Films and parent company The Walt Disney Co. have made it clear they are looking to renegotiate their contract, The Associated Press reports. Miramax's current deal expires in 2009, but an option in the contract allows Disney to renegotiate the relationship in 2005. At issue, according to AP sources, is Disney's desire to pay Miramax founders, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, less money and to impose caps on exploding budgets at Miramax. Last week, Eisner said Disney has no plans to sell Miramax, but he added that the studio had been unprofitable in three of the past five years. AP reports this prompted a strong denial from Miramax spokesman Matthew Hiltzik, who said the studio was making money, as evidenced by Disney paying a bonus to the Weinsteins that was predicated on Miramax turning a profit. "If Disney thinks Miramax is so unprofitable, Bob and Harvey would be happy to buy it back if Disney names the price," Hiltzik told AP.
Gibson Sues Over Passion Box Office Gross
Mel Gibson's company, Icon Distribution Inc., has sued movie theater chain Regal Entertainment Group for more than $40 million, claiming Regal failed to pay Icon its fair share of box office receipts for The Passion of the Christ, Reuters reports. In the suit, filed on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Icon said its agreement with Regal called for the companies to share receipts on "studio terms," which Icon defined as 55 percent of gross ticket sales paid to it and 45 percent retained by Regal. Icon claims Regal has reneged on that deal and offered to pay Icon only 34 percent, instead, Reuters reports. The Passion has grossed nearly $370 million domestically.
Bootlegged Soul Plane Blamed for Poor Box Office
The critically panned comedy Soul Plane may have bombed at the box office but the film hit big on the black market. Variety reports that as early as April, illegal and very high quality DVD and VHS copies of the film were so widely available among street vendors that some involved with the film blame its poor box office performance on bootleggers. "We're the first movie that can demonstrate a direct relationship between digital piracy and box office sales," Plane's producer David Scott Rubin told Variety. "Even if the movie isn't any good, if a movie is out on the streets for two months with your core audience, the word of mouth works against you." The FBI is said to be investigating how Soul Plane was hijacked, though the agency, citing normal policy, would not confirm or deny a probe, Variety reports.
Date With Bridget Sequel Changed
Universal Pictures and Miramax Films, which co-financed the sequel Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason, have changed the release date and distributor of the film. Universal will now distribute the film, in which Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth reprise their roles, and will open the film Nov. 19. Variety reports both studios attributed the distribution shift to the fact that Universal had more opportunities, while Miramax's slate got full suddenly with Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
FCC Settles With Clear Channel
The Federal Communications Commission has reached a $1.75 million settlement with Clear Channel Communications to resolve a number of indecency complaints against radio shock jock Howard Stern and other radio personalities, the AP reports. The agreement settles fines proposed by the agency against Clear Channel for sexually explicit remarks Stern made on New York City-based radio in an April 2003 broadcast. A source told the AP the deal also covers 10 open investigations and some 25 pending cases stemming from listener complaints lodged against shows on Clear Channel stations. Clear Channel has since removed Stern from the six of its 1,200-plus stations.
Role Call: Mortensen Gets Lesson on Violence, Vanilla Sky Sequel in Works, Final Destination 3 On the Way
Viggo Mortensen is in negotiations to star in New Line Cinema's A History of Violence for director David Cronenberg. The film, based on John Wagner and Vince Locke's graphic novel of the same name, is about an ordinary family's life after the father receives unwanted national attention for a seemingly vigilante-style self-defense killing at his diner. Mortensen would play the father … Judy Greer and Paul Schneider have signed on for roles in Cameron Crowe's follow-up to 2001's Vanilla Sky, Elizabethtown. The Paramount Pictures project already stars Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon and Jessica Biel … New Line Cinema has greenlighted Final Destination 3, reuniting the studio with franchise creators Glen Morgan and James Wong. Wong directed the original film, which he wrote with Morgan and Jeffrey Reddick, in 2000. While the third installment is expected to continue in a similar vein as its two predecessors, Morgan and Wong have not yet revealed their take on this sequel.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.
This film is based on Elegy for Iris literary critic John Bayley's biography of his late wife the brilliant writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch. Iris is unconventional in the sense that it does not adhere to a structured plot or story line but instead focuses on their relationship by flashing back and forth between the present and 40 years ago when the two first met. In the sequences taking place in the past Kate Winslet plays a young confident Murdoch in her formative years a woman revered by men and openly bisexual. Hugh Bonneville plays the young and apprehensive Bayley hopelessly pursuing her. The present however reveals a drastic role reversal for the couple: We see Murdoch in her 70s as played by Judi Dench and witness her descent into Alzheimer's disease and the toll it takes on her husband played by Jim Broadbent. The once-subservient husband has been thrust into a caretaker position and painfully tries to cope with his beloved wife's illness and loss of sanity.
Dench deservedly received a best actress Oscar nomination for the fabulous job she does as the older Murdoch. She is convincing as a brilliant thinker and even more believable as her condition worsens--check out the heartbreaking scene when Bayley locks himself in the study to get away from her irrational behavior and she scratches the windowpane on the glass door like a cat while looking at her husband with utter helplessness. Dench conveys her character's vulnerability in a single glance. As an older Bayley Broadbent is as impressive as Dench especially as he struggles to be assertive yet avoid being too harsh. Bonneville as a young Bayley could almost be Broadbent's clone. At first glance he looks like the same actor made to look older through some sort of makeup or special effects wizardry. Bonneville skillfully hatches the young Bayley's traits and tics later perfected by Broadbent. Winslet also Oscar-nominated for Iris (in the supporting actress category) well plays Murdoch's early audacity and boldness.
Director Richard Eyre does a beautiful and seamless job flowing from the past to the present throughout the film. Although the film barely delves into Murdoch's work the importance of her writing is established with scenes from a BBC interview or a luncheon given in her honor. Eyre also does an exceptional job conveying Bayley's hopeless predicament: he fusses over Murdoch like an overprotective parent intermittently lashing out at her only to apologize sobbing afterward for having done so. It's sweet and pitiful especially since Bayley believes that the Iris he fell in love with is still in there somewhere. But while the film is visually exquisite and convincing the subject matter is not necessarily entertaining. We know Murdoch will eventually succumb to her illness but it's even more dreadful to have to watch every agonizing step. By the time Murdoch was reduced to playing in the dirt and watching Teletubbies I found myself wondering When is she going to die already?
It's a very light week in role call land. What a shame--there's not one sexy star I can talk about (trust me, this is a problem here at Hollywood.com). But I do have the freakish pop singer/superstar category covered. Honestly, what is wrong with Michael Jackson? Boy, I'd really like to go into it, but there's too much to talk about and I just don't have time. Let's focus on the casting choices he's made for his new video "You Rock My World" for now. He's snagged Marlon Brando (who replaces Robert De Niro), some of the cast from The Sopranos, Benicio Del Toro and Chris Tucker to play some parts, and I just have one question--what do you think Jackson did to entice talent like that? Maybe he's paying them buckets of money. Maybe they feel sorry for him. Nevertheless, Jackson, whose career is really taking a turn for the worse with spiraling record sales and little public interest, has decided to return to his glory days by producing this $30 million video, jam-packed with big names--basically making up for a pretty average pop tune none of the radio stations want to play. It's sad, really.
Director and special-effects aficionado James Cameron has decided to concentrate on comic books--and once again, water--for his next project. He will be developing a live-action version of the comic book Fathom, which follows a beautiful young girl named Aspen Matthews. Aspen is found on an abandoned yacht with no memory of her past. Don't you just hate that? You're on a yacht, you're having fun and then--wham! You forget everything. But I digress... The girl grows up, becomes an Olympic swimmer and a marine biologist. During her research she discovers not only a mysterious underwater race but her own water-based powers. This is right up Cameron's alley; he simply loves the water, doesn't he? With his films The Abyss and Titanic, he's getting a name for himself filming epic water adventures. He's even doing a series of underwater specials for ABC with the late Jacques Cousteau's son, Jean-Michel. Someday, I'll have to ask him what his fascination with the deep blue sea is.
Sammy Davis Jr. only wished he could have starred in the latest unbelievable script coming out of Hollywood. Take a gander at this: apparently, talent/literary house The Endeavor Agency has decided to get a little rat-happy. They are hawking a remake of the 1971 rodent-infested Willard written by Glen Morgan and writer-director James Wong. You remember Willard, don't you? That happy story about a socially persecuted young man who gets back at his co-workers with a blood-thirsty rat, starring Bruce Davison. Right. On Tuesday, the agency created a stir by sending the reworked spec script around town, in a cage--with rats. Now, tell me what studio executive is going to pass something like that up? DreamWorks principals Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg and Miramax co-chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein were among some of the recipients of the lovely "package." Where's the rat poison?
Michael Cimino is returning to the director's chair with a new project, Man's Fate, a drama set in Shanghai against the backdrop of the Chinese revolution. Based on French author Andre Malraux's novel La condition humaine (The Human Condition), the film follows several Europeans living in Shanghai and the emotional bonds they develop during the tragic turmoil of the onset of China's Communist regime. Cimino is looking at several A-list actors, including Johnny Depp, Daniel Day-Lewis, John Malkovich, Uma Thurman and French actor Alain Delon. Poor Cimino. His career started so big with the Academy Award-winning The Deer Hunter, but has been forever stamped with the ugly label of directing the classic textbook-case flop Heaven's Gate. He'll never be able to shrug this off, unless he directs another Oscar winner. Maybe Fate will be his ticket out of the Gate.
And in television...
Usually I stick with the movies, but this television role call caught my eye. Actress Juliette Lewis is going to make a guest appearance on ABC's Dharma & Greg, playing Jenna Elfman's childhood friend. Now, what the heck happened to Juliette Lewis? It used to be that when a movie actress started doing television, it meant their careers were going downhill. This isn't the case anymore, with the advent of cable and the quality of material being put on television. However, in Lewis' case, we may be looking at old times. If it were Friends or Fraiser, that would be one thing but Dharma & Greg? She came out like gangbusters when she started her career with Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives and Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, and especially in her heart-wrenching performance in Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear. But then came The Evening Star and The Other Sister, and, well, you see where I'm going. Lewis on Dharma & Greg is just an interesting step on what still could be a promising career--if she got a better agent.