Elderly Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) who once served under the great Alexander (Colin Farrell) narrates the life story of the man the myth the legend--the son of the ambitious King Philip (Val Kilmer) who surpassed his father at every level and charged into the farthest reaches of the world. From early childhood in Macedonia we see where Alexander gets his drive--mostly from his vengeful snake-lovin' mother Olympias (Angelina Jolie) who urges her son to take charge as well from his tutor Aristotle (Christopher Plummer). Even in the taming of his unbreakable horse Bucephalas at 10 years old Alexander's destiny is evident. The heart of the film lies in Persia which Alexander conquers in one of the most studied military battles of all time. Alexander spends a great deal of time there--taking in the culture claiming its riches and marrying a Bactrian princess Roxane (Rosario Dawson)--much to the chagrin of his Macedonian generals who are stuck in this foreign land with their king. Despite this success Alexander grows restless and turns his attention to the rest of the world including the unexplored regions of India. With his army stretched thin and his Macedonian troops longing for home Alexander presses them one campaign too far. Succumbing to a mysterious illness at age 33 Alexander dies never quite finding what he so desperately searched for.
Although some may scoff at casting the Irish actor in the lead Farrell does an admirable job playing the tortured hero blond wig and all. He exudes plenty of wide-eyed fury and intensity as Alexander the warrior balanced by the controlled calculation of a hyper-effective military commander although he isn't nearly as effective as the idealistic pre-world-conqueror Alexander as he is spiraling down into the haunted angst-ridden Alexander at the end of his obsessive crusade. Casting Jolie as Olympias is a stroke of genius. Sure Jolie can play a smart and beautiful woman in her sleep but her beauty is surpassed only by the power she imbues as Alexander's bitter yet loving mother; she's as hypnotic as the snakes she carries around. Kilmer relishes his role as Alexander's father Philip in all of his grotesque wine-soaked glory. Powerful driven and battle-scarred Kilmer's Philip knows precisely what he wants and matches Jolie's quiet intensity with the raw aggressive masculinity of a warrior king who is far more comfortable in his armor than a toga. In the supporting roles Hopkins is great as always this time in the thankless role of the narrator while Dawson plays Roxane with a ferocity that is as mesmerizing as it is terrifying. Standout Jared Leto also turns in a concentrated performance as Hephaestion Alexander's long-time companion boyhood friend and the person who loves Alexander the best. (And we do mean love.)
Alexander is Oliver Stone at his best. An Alexander nut for most of his life the director gives us a film that--even in its loooong three-hour form--continuously holds your attention especially its intense and bloody battle scenes. I mean honestly once you've fought against an elephant in armor the plain old sword-and-shield skirmishes pale in comparison. Alexander also possesses a great breadth of visuals: Alexandria's peace Pella's tension Babylon's opulence and India's richness. Yet as wonderful as the landscapes are it's personal interactions and internal politics that drive the story--and of course Stone's penchant for conspiracy theories as he more than insinuates Alexander was poisoned by his enemies rather than dying of an "unknown" illness. But a problem still remains: Alexander's life was so huge and he did so much that it's almost impossible to encapsulate it effectively into one film. Stone instead has to focus on what he thinks is the most important namely Alexander's renowned conquests while allowing the pressure cooker in which the young conqueror grew up--the triangle of mother father and son--come through in the decisions he makes later in life. For those few of us who have studied Alexander Stone has made this film especially for us. If you haven't spent any time reading Arrian and the other histories this excellent film might just inspire you to do so.
P.J. Hogan's Peter Pan follows J.M. Barrie's story almost to the letter. A girl on the brink of womanhood Wendy Darling (newcomer Rachel Hurd-Wood) loves telling her brothers John (Harry Newell) and Michael (Freddie Popplewell) stories of dastardly pirates as they sit in their nursery under the watchful eye of their St. Bernard Nana. Her 19th-century Londoner parents however believe the time has come for the young girl to grow up especially her father. Then a cheeky wild-haired boy named Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter) flies through the nursery window one night with his trusted yet jealousy-prone fairy Tinkerbell (Ludivine Sagnier) telling Wendy he can take her to a place full of adventure where no one ever has to grow up. She readily accepts the offer and with a few happy thoughts some fairy dust and her two brothers in tow she flies off to Neverland. (Not the ranch…the real place.) Once there Wendy encounters mermaids Indians and the Lost Boys (who refer to her as "mother") and gets the whole pirate experience in Peter's ongoing feud with arch-nemesis Captain Hook (Jason Isaacs). But Wendy soon becomes conflicted because on the one hand she likes hangin' with hottie Peter but on the other she misses her mother. She decides it's probably best to go back and grow up but in her hurry to leave she ends up in Hook's clutches. A rescue ensues. Swords clash ticking crocodiles are fed and fairies are saved as our clever fly boy zooms Wendy and company back to London on a giant pirate ship. But does he stay and grow up himself? Hell no he's a Toys 'R Us kid forever!
All the kid actors in Peter Pan are highly watchable and appealing with angelic faces peaches-and-cream complexions and pouty cherry lips. This is the first time Peter is being played by a real-life boy a fact much hyped by the filmmakers and 12-year-old Sumpter (Frailty) does his best to live up to the expectations. (He's soon to be swoon-worthy material for sure.) He's got a mischievous gleam in his eye and a great sly smile but he really lights up when he's looking into Wendy's adorable face. Hurd-Wood the first-time actress who plays the spirited girl earned her role after a long and involved casting process it's well deserved; she fits the typical English-girl profile perfectly and gets the hang of her craft quickly infusing the character with a natural cheerful energy. It's also refreshing to see the young actors play up Wendy and Peter's feelings of first love which prior films always hinted at but never fully realized. Isaacs in a dual role as the firm-but-loving Mr. Darling and the frightening comical lonely charming needy reprehensible Captain Hook draws on his experience at playing exquisitely awful baddies (The Patriot Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and really sinks his claws into Hook. In a stand out supporting role French actress Sagnier (Swimming Pool) is really fantastic as the vivacious non-speaking Tinkerbell portraying the fairy's conflicted emotions with a silent-film over-the-top technique.
Director/writer P.J. Hogan (My Best Friend's Wedding) and his team try to distinguish their film from the other Peter Pans of the world by using all the technical and special effects wizardry at their disposal. Hogan says his Peter Pan is the way its author Barrie intended to be when he wrote it as a play over a 100 years ago--full of fantasy and wonder. In a way he's right and production designer Roger Ford and visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar take his vision and run with it giving audiences a very lush Neverland with waterfalls fluffy pink clouds crystal-blue waters and a gorgeous fairy world. But despite the bells and whistles there really isn't anything original and different in this Pan. Even its look at the dark side of Neverland has been done in Steven Spielberg's 1991 semi-sequel Hook which showed the dangers of Neverland. In this version lives really are at stake and the pirates are not cute and fun. Even the mermaids are mysterious and malevolent with scary faces and murderous intentions a far cry from the beautiful if somewhat mean-spirited creatures of the 1953 classic Disney animated adaptation another inescapable influence on the audience. When the crocodile draws near for example tick-tocking away the croc's signature tune from the Disney film comes immediately to mind. People may love those Disney films for those cutesy catchy songs but Peter Pan really is a good story. Heck it's a great story. But it's just been done.
Warner Bros. "The Whole Nine Yards" easily held on to first place despite tracking studies that had projected Dimension Films' opening of "Reindeer Games" would be the weekend's big winner.
"Reindeer Games " Although the tracking data had pointed to an opening of $10 million to $12 million for "Reindeer," no film managed to crack double digits last weekend. "Reindeer" wound up an embarrassed No. 3 for the weekend with a red face and nose. The weekend's only other wide opening, Paramount's "Wonder Boys," lived up to tracking expectations, finishing out of the Top Five, in seventh place, with a grim estimated $5.85 million.
The best-performing film of the bunch continued to be "Yards," Morgan Creek and Franchise Pictures' R-rated comedy. "Yards" continued laughing atop the chart in its second weekend with an estimated $9.61 million (-30%) at 2,910 theaters (theater count unchanged, $3,301 per theater). Its total is approximately $28.5 million.
(All of today's estimates are for the three-day weekend. Percentage comparisons are against the Friday through Sunday portion of the previous four-day Presidents Day weekend.)
Directed by Jonathan Lynn, "Yards" stars Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry.
"Well, there's no contest this weekend," Warner Bros. Distribution President Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "It's probably one of the best-holding films of all time after Presidents Weekend. I've been tracking these dates, and usually they drop 37-43%. But we have a movie on which the word of mouth is just terrific."
"The Whole Nine Yards" Fellman applauds director Lynn and Franchise Pictures' head Elie Samaha, who executive produced the film with Andrew Stevens, for delivering a movie that audiences are clearly enjoying.
"The screenings we had -- from our sneak previews all the way through opening weekend -- continued to get stronger (in terms of exit poll scores)," Fellman said. "We seem to be getting younger (moviegoers), so the movie's moving into a broader audience, which is wonderful."
Where is it heading? "You're talking north of $50 million," said Fellman. "Each week now depends on how well we hold. After this week is over, we'll end up with $31-32 million. If we take a 35% drop next week, that will still give us another $8 million and bring us to $40 million. Whether it's $50 million or $60 million (remains to be seen), but it's north of $50 million."
Focusing on Franchise Pictures, Fellman said, "Coming out with your first movie at No. 1, and the second week having it No. 1 again, (is a fabulous way to start out)."
Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies' PG-rated comedy "Snow Day" rose one peg to second place in its third weekend with a still-hot estimated $8.50 million (-26%) at 2,709 theaters (+7 theaters, $3,138 per theater). Its total is approximately $43.3 million.
Directed by Chris Koch, it stars Chevy Chase.
"I think it will make $60 million-plus," Paramount Distribution President Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "I did a high-low projection earlier in the week, and we had it at $50 million on the low side and $63 million on the high side. Certainly, this is a better hold than we expected. I think it'll be in the low $60 millions."
Why is it performing so well?
"You can't really say, 'There's nothing else out there for the kids,' because there is 'The Tigger Movie,'" said Lewellen. "But I think that's so much younger (in its appeal). Certainly, ('Snow') is satisfying the (family) audience it's intended for.
"I think Chevy Chase brought more to the table here than they realized. Parents are going because they think there may be something there for them, too (with Chase starring). He's funny and he's been funny in the past, so they think, 'Well, I'll go to that one (with my kids because I'll probably enjoy it myself).'"
"Snow's" production cost reportedly was only about $15 million, which should make it nicely profitable.
Dimension Films' launch of its R-rated thriller "Reindeer Games" finished third, looking far less lively than industry tracking studies had suggested it would. Hollywood insiders had said "Reindeer" was the only film likely to do double-digit business this weekend.
"Reindeer" wound up with a calm estimated $8 million at 2,204 theaters ($3,629 per theater).
Directed by John Frankenheimer, it stars Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise, and Charlize Theron.
"Kind of a downbeat weekend," was how one competing distribution executive summed things up Sunday morning. "Right now, 'The Whole Nine Yards' is overperforming the tracking, clearly, and there's no question 'Reindeer Games' underperformed."
Distributors make a point of saying about tracking, as one did in our projection report for the weekend, "If you're looking for science, there isn't any. That's why nobody can make (accurate) predictions." While tracking data is often reliable, there are times when moviegoers simply do something different from what they said they were going to do.
Columbia's PG-13-rated comedy "Hanging Up" saw moviegoers start to disconnect with it in its second weekend, sliding two rungs to fourth place with a less talkative estimated $7.50 million (-45%) at 2,618 theaters (theater count unchanged, $2,865 per theater). Its total is approximately $26.1 million.
Directed by Diane Keaton, it stars Meg Ryan, Keaton, Lisa Kudrow, and Walter Matthau.
"I think it'll pretty predictably make in the mid-$40s to $50 million range and end up making us a profit," said Sony Pictures Releasing President Jeff Blake Sunday morning.
USA Films' R-rated sci-fi thriller "Pitch Black" dropped one orbit to fifth place in its second weekend with an OK estimated $7.05 million (-39%) at 1,930 theaters (+98 theaters, $3,654 per theater). Its total is approximately $22.8 million.
Directed by David Twohy, it stars Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, and Keith David.
Disney's G-rated "The Tigger Movie" took a one-peg skid to sixth place in its third weekend, still holding well with an estimated $6.30 million (-21%) at 2,818 theaters (+63 theaters, $2,236 per theater). Its total is approximately $30.6 million.
The film is the animated adventures of the eponymous "Winnie the Pooh" character and his cast of animal friends.
Paramount's R-rated comedy drama "Wonder Boys" lived up to its mediocre tracking scores, opening in seventh place to a less than wonderful estimated $5.85 million at 1,253 theatres ($4,669 per theater).
However, its per-theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide release over the weekend.
Directed by Curtis Hanson, "Boys" stars Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand, Katie Holmes, Rip Torn and Robert Downey Jr.
"A lot of critics have mentioned that his (Douglas') performance is very good and, in fact, I think it is," said Paramount's Lewellen on Sunday morning. "We opened (Wednesday) in New York, L.A. and Chicago. Obviously, with a film like this, you have to depend on good reviews. We got that, for the most part, with the exception of The New York Times. Virtually everywhere else in the country, (we got) good to rave reviews.
"This is one of those (films) that can hang around a while if word of mouth is good on the picture."
With that in mind, Lewellen said, Paramount is committed to going wider with "Wonder Boys" next weekend.
"We're bringing in another 250 runs next week in smaller markets," he said. "Hopefully, it will give an opportunity for the reviews and good word of mouth to get out there and into the smaller markets."
"Boys" five-day total is $5.9 million.
Dimension Films' R-rated thriller "Scream 3" continued slipping in its fourth weekend, down two pegs to eighth place with a less scary estimated $5 million at 3,099 theaters (-269 theaters, $1,613 per theater). Its total is approximately $78.1 million.
Directed by Wes Craven, "Scream 3" stars David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox Arquette, and Parker Posey.
DreamWorks' R-rated drama "American Beauty," a major Oscar contender with eight nominations, including Best Picture, held on to ninth place in its 24th week with a still promising estimated $4.73 million (-15%) at 1,323 theatres (+36 theaters, $3,578 per theater). Its total is approximately $87.7 million.
Directed by Sam Mendes, it stars Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening.
"It's down 15%, (which is) fantastic," DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning.
What effect has the film's awards success had?
"Well, it's had to be extremely positive," said Tharp. "Probably, the Golden Globes awards as well as the (Oscar) nominations contributed to that (Academy run) opening last week, which was $5.6 million for the three days. I think right now the movie's playing like it did when it was first-run.
"It continues to hold very, very well. It's a combination of people that have never seen the movie and, then, people seeing it again."
Rounding out the Top 10 was Miramax's PG-13-rated drama "The Cider House Rules," also a top contender for Oscars with seven nominations, including Best Picture. "Cider" expanded in its 12th week, pulling in an OK estimated $4.10 million at 1,346 theaters (+489 theaters, $3,046 per theater). Its total is approximately $32 million.
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, it stars Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo, Erykah Badu, Paul Rudd and Michael Caine.
Last weekend saw the arrival of Fox Searchlight Pictures' PG-13-rated dramatic comedy "The Closer You Get," placing 30th with a quiet estimated $0.045 million at 10 theaters ($4,500 per theater).
Directed by Aileen Ritchie, it stars Ian Hart, Sean McGinley, Niamh Cusack and Ruth McCabe.
Last weekend saw Columbia hold 800 sneak previews of its comedy "What Planet Are You From?".
Directed by Mike Nichols, it stars Garry Shandling, Annette Bening, Greg Kinnear, Ben Kingsley, Linda Fiorentino and John Goodman.
"They were generally well-attended, particularly in big cities," Sony Pictures' Blake said Sunday morning. "They were less well-attended in the smaller cities in the South and the Midwest. Overall, the reaction was very good. Clearly, it's a picture I think people are going to find out about and tell their friends. It opens Friday (March 3) in about 2,200 runs."
On the expansion front, last weekend saw Buena Vista/Touchstone expand its R-rated drama "The Insider," a top contender for Oscars with seven nominations, including Best Picture, in its 17th week, placing 21st with a dull estimated $0.49 million at 651 theaters (+519 theaters, $753 per theater). Its total is approximately $27.5 million.
Directed by Michael Mann, it stars Russell Crowe, Al Pacino and Christopher Plummer.
USA Films' reissue of the PG-rated suspense drama "Rear Window" widened in its sixth week, placing 26th with an OK estimated $0.13 million at 22 theaters (+4 theaters, $5,955 per theater). Its total is approximately $0.9 million.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it stars James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Robert Harris and James Katz restored the 1954 film classic.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend - took in approximately $83.21 million, up about 13.50% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $73.31 million.
This weekend's key film gross cannot be compared with this year's previous weekend, the four-day Presidents Day holiday weekend.
Last year, Sony's opening week of "8MM" was first with $14.25 million at 2,370 theaters ($6,014 per theater) and Paramount's fourth week of "Payback" was second with $6.79 million at 2,852 theaters ($2,380 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $21.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $18.1 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES
Based on business by key films, last weekend's top six distributors were the following: Miramax (Miramax, Dimension) was first with three films ("Reindeer Games," "Scream 3" and "The Cider House Rules") grossing an estimated $17.10 million or 20.6% of the market.
Paramount was second with two films ("Snow Day" and "Wonder Boys") grossing an estimated $14.35 million or 17.2% of the market.
Warner Bros. was third with two films ("The Green Mile" and "The Whole Nine Yards") grossing an estimated $11.64 million or 14% of the market.
Buena Vista (Touchstone and Disney) was fourth with four films ("The Tigger Movie," "Toy Story 2," "The Sixth Sense" and "Fantasia 2000") grossing an estimated $10 million or 12% of the market.
Sony Pictures Entertainment (Columbia, TriStar) was fifth with two films ("Hanging Up" and "Stuart Little") grossing an estimated $8.55 million or 10.3% of the market.
USA Films was sixth with one film ("Pitch Black") grossing an estimated $7.05 million or 8.5% of the market.
(11) "The Beach"/Fox Theaters: 2,517 (-70) Gross: $3.50 million (-51%) Average per theater: $1,391 Total: $33.9 million
(12) "Boiler Room"/New Line Theaters: 1,335 (0) Gross: $3.10 million (-46%) Average per theater: $2,322 Total: $11.1 million
(13) "The Green Mile"/Castle Rock/Warner Bros. Theaters: 1,746 (-356) Gross: $2.03 million (-29%) Average per theater: $1,167 Total: $131.2 million
(14) "The Sixth Sense"/BV/Touchstone Theaters: 992 (+98) Gross: $1.60 million (-19%) (tie) Average per theater: $1,568 Total: $284 million
(14) "Fantasia 2000"/BV/Disney Theaters: 54 (0) (all IMAX) Gross: $1.60 million (worldwide) (-32%) (tie) Average per theater: $29,153 Total: $34.5 million (worldwide)
(16) "The Hurricane"/Universal Theaters: 1,346 (-365) Gross: $1.31 million (-45%) Average per theater: $970 Total: $48.2 million
(17) "Next Friday"/New Line Theaters: 1,038 (-171) Gross: $1.13 million (-38%) Average per theater: $1,084 Total: $54.1 million
(18) "Stuart Little"/Columbia Theaters: 1,300 (-414) Gross: $1.05 million (-33%) Average per theater: $808 Total: $136.2 million
(19) "Galaxy Quest"/DreamWorks Theaters: 817 (-369) Gross: $0.75 million (-39%) Average per theater: $920 Total: $69.0 million
(20) "Toy Story 2"/BV/Disney Theaters: 581 (-183) Gross: $0.50 million (-48%) Average per theater: $863 Total: $240.6 million
(21) "The Insider"/BV/Touchstone (see EXPANSIONS above)
(22) "The Talented Mr. Ripley"/Paramount/Miramax Theaters: 626 (-519) Gross: $0.37 million (-56%) Average per theater: $694 Total: $80 million
(23) "Angela's Ashes"/Paramount Theaters: 584 (-30) Gross: $0.36 million (-42%) Average per theater: $616 Total: $11.9 million
(24) "Being John Malkovich"/USA Films Theaters: 134 (-31) Gross: $0.13 million (-34%) Average per theater: $995 Total: $22 million
(25) "Snow Falling on Cedars"/Universal Theaters: 299 (+11) Gross: $0.13 million (-17%) Average per theater: $440 Total: $14.1 million
(26) "Rear Window"/USA (see EXPANSIONS above)
(27) "End of Days"/Universal Theaters: 197 (-43) Gross: $0.10 million (-36%) Average per theater: $460 Total: $66.7 million (28) "The Bone Collector"/Universal: Theaters: 217
(-28) Gross: $0.10 million (-36%) Average per theater: $415 Total: $66.4 million
(29) "My Dog Skip"/Warner Bros. Theaters: 21 (-4) Gross: $0.056 million (-15%) Average per theater: $2,660 Total: $0.7 million
(30) "The Closer You Get"/Fox Searchlight: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)