Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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Silent Hill: Revelation 3D has a lot of things working against it from the get go. It's based on a video game franchise that debuted in 1999 has been milked for sequels ever since (the current total of Silent Hill games is nine) and the movie itself is a sequel to the disappointingly dumb 2006 film directed by Christophe Gans. What's more the bitter aftertaste of Resident Evil: Retribution is still lingering in the mouths of survival horror movie/gamers and although they have entirely different plots and take place in totally different universes that's not necessarily enough to take the edge off for weary viewers.
It would take a dazzling director with a stellar cast and a first-rate script to overcome those sorts of obstacles and Silent Hill doesn't have any of those things. Writer/director Michael J. Bassett is obviously fond of both video games and horror (his previous movies include Solomon Kane and Deathwatch) the cast is decent with some exceptions and the script… well it's better than Resident Evil. If anything we can give Bassett credit for his enthusiasm. You really can't win when you try and make a video game movie no matter how many hours you spent playing Doom as a teen. Whether that's at the hands of the studios or the creative teams themselves isn't clear; it's simply a nut that hasn't been cracked yet.
The good news is that you don't really need a grasp on the video game or previous movie's narrative to follow the Revelation's plot. Harry (Sean Bean) has been lying to his daughter Heather (Adelaide Clemens) for a very long time. He's convinced her that her dreams about a terrible place called Silent Hill are the longstanding effects of a car crash that killed her mother and that they have to move around and take on new identities all the time because he killed a prowler in self-defense. Heather has other problems like the occasional hallucinations about a terrible alternate universe that's populated by monsters and industrial junk and flickering lights. One minute she'll be doing something normal and then suddenly the walls are burning down to the rafters and something with a butt for a face is shambling towards her. It's a raw deal.
Heather's first day at her new school is not that great; she meets a cute guy named Vincent (Kit Harington) who wants to be buddies but she makes it clear she's pretty bad ass and not one to pal around since she'll just be leaving town again anyway. When she comes home from school her dad has disappeared and the living room is a huge mess. If she wasn't clear on what to do next someone used his blood to write "COME TO SILENT HILL" on the wall with a funky sigil next to it which matches this weird object she's had since she was little. Luckily Vincent has a car and more than a few troubling secrets of his own underneath those glossy brown curls. He offers to drive her and off they go. Typical chitchat between them is about the nature of reality and dreams and Vincent's batty grandfather who's locked up in an insane asylum.
This is where things get really convoluted. Silent Hill is indeed a terrible place where ash falls from the sky during the day and horrible things come out to menace any townsperson dumb enough to be out at night. It's an eerie world that comes close to the truly terrifying Silent Hill games on occasion. After a while though it's mostly just Heather and occasionally Vincent running around in what seems like mazes of rusty bloody walls with the occasional gruesome monster popping out to halfheartedly menace them.
There's a dash of The Wicker Man here with the requisite creepy sacrificial cult and some Hellraiser-esque torture thrown in but it stops short of being a full-blown Clive Barker nightmare. There is some gore and disturbing images but the choice to use practical effects for almost all of the monsters is far more impressive in theory. Those monsters look okay from afar but rubbery up close whereas the only CGI monster is an impressive spidery thing made up of doll parts. The use of strobe lights and other effects is absolutely maddening especially in conjunction with the 3D which is mostly used for cheap gimmicks like splashing blood at the viewer.
There's something oddly satisfying about the way that the movie follows the trajectory of a video game; it's even laid out like a video game universe with different goals and bosses at each location. The problem is that what is believable or acceptable in a video game doesn't necessarily translate to a movie — in a game you're busy solving puzzles and killing monsters and it's easier to overlook kitchen-sink plots. Even though the movie doesn't completely hew to the game's story it's got the same mentality that more is better when it's really just more. And the more that's piled on the more ridiculous it gets. When everything is at a fever pitch that kind of weirdness becomes a baseline and nothing is shocking. Unlike in the games there's just one ending no matter how you play it.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts has released its list of nominees for the annual BAFTA Awards, also known as the British Oscars or the only big awards show with a category just for British only. Surprise, surprise, the Brits have come out on top; the historical drama, The King’s Speech swept the noms with 14 in total. Close behind is Darren Aronofsky’s surprising thriller, Black Swan with 12 total nominations. The British Film category that comes in addition to the BAFTA’s “Best Film” category gives a second chance to 127 Hours, which doesn’t make the top five in the overall category but has the chance to take the top Brits-only honor. Also of note, 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld, who’s blowing audiences away in December’s True Grit, merits the grownup honor of a nomination for best lead actress for her role in the film (mini fist pump!).
While the awards will be broadcast exclusively on BBC One, sorry America, it’s still worth knowing which films made the cut.
And the nominees are:
• Black Swan - Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver, Scott Franklin
• Inception - Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan
• The King’s Speech - Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
• The Social Network - Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Céan Chaffin
• True Grit - Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Outstanding British Film
• 127 Hours - Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, Christian Colson, John Smithson
• Another Year - Mike Leigh, Georgina Lowe
• Four Lions - Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Mark Herbert, Derrin Schlesinger
• The King’s Speech - Tom Hooper, David Seidler, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
• Made in Dagenham - Nigel Cole, William Ivory, Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer
• The Arbor - Director, Producer - Clio Barnard, Tracy O’Riordan
• Exit Through The Gift Shop - Director, Producer – Banksy, Jaimie D’Cruz
• Four Lions - Director/Writer - Chris Morris
• Monsters - Director/Writer – Gareth Edwards
• Skeletons - Director/Writer – Nick Whitfield
• 127 Hours - Danny Boyle
• Black Swan - Darren Aronofsky
• Inception - Christopher Nolan
• The King’s Speech - Tom Hooper
• The Social Network - David Fincher
• Black Swan - Mark Heyman, Andrés Heinz, John McLaughlin
• The Fighter - Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
• Inception - Christopher Nolan
• The Kids Are All Right - Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
• The King’s Speech - David Seidler
• 127 Hours - Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
• The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Rasmus Heisterberg, Nikolaj Arcel
• The Social Network - Aaron Sorkin
• Toy Story 3 - Michael Arndt
• True Grit - Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Film Not In the English Language
• Biutiful - Alejandro González Iñárritu, Jon Kilik, Fernando Bovaira
• The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Søren Stærmose, Niels Arden Oplev
• I Am Love - Luca Guadagnino, Francesco Melzi D’Eril, Marco Morabito, Massimiliano Violante
• Of Gods And Men - Xavier Beauvois
• The Secrets In Their Eyes - Mariela Besuievsky, Juan José Campanella
• Despicable Me - Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin
• How To Train Your Dragon - Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois
• Toy Story 3 - Lee Unkrich
• Javier Bardem – Biutiful
• Jeff Bridges - True Grit
• Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network
• Colin Firth - The King’s Speech
• James Franco - 127 Hours
• Annette Benning - The Kids Are All Right
• Julianne Moore - The Kids Are All Right
• Natalie Portman - Black Swan
• Noomi Rapace - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
• Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit
• Christian Bale - The Fighter
• Andrew Garfield - The Social Network
• Pete Postlethwaite - The Town
• Mark Ruffalo - The Kids Are All Right
• Geoffrey Rush - The King’s Speech
• Amy Adams - The Fighter
• Helena Bonham Carter - The King’s Speech
• Barbara Hershey - Black Swan
• Lesley Manville - Another Year
• Miranda Richardson - Made in Dagenham
• 127 Hours - AR Rahman
• Alice In Wonderland - Danny Elfman
• How to Train Your Dragon - John Powell
• Inception - Hans Zimmer
• The King’s Speech - Alexandre Desplat
• 127 Hours - Anthony Dod Mantle, Enrique Chediak
• Black Swan - Matthew Libatique
• Inception - Wally Pfister
• The King’s Speech - Danny Cohen
• True Grit - Roger Deakins
For the full list of nominees, visit the BAFTA site, here.
Blade 2 was a slashing success at the box office, opening in first place to a razor sharp $33.1 million.
Ice Age slid into second place with a still solid $31.1 million, melting only 33 percent. E.T.'s 20th anniversary reissue opened in third place, celebrating with $15.1 million. Also helping to drive ticket sales to record setting heights were holdovers Showtime with $8.2 million and Resident Evil with $6.6 million.
For the second consecutive weekend, key films--those grossing $500,000 or more--enjoyed summer sized grosses. Studio estimates put ticket sales at $132.7 million, down less than one percent from last weekend's $133.8 million. Business was up nearly 75 percent from last year's $76 million.
Distribution sources said that when the weekend's final numbers are released Monday they could be lower than today's estimates because of competition from tonight's Oscar telecast. Adult appeal films, in particular, are considered to be the most vulnerable to competition from the Oscars.
For years the industry avoided having a negative impact at the box office by holding the Oscars on Monday night, the weakest night of the weak for ticket sales. Last year, the Oscars were moved to Sunday night. A key reason for the move was to take advantage of there being less traffic in Los Angeles on Sundays so those attending could get to the ceremonies more easily.
THE TOP TEN
New Line Cinema's R rated vampire thriller Blade 2 kicked off in first place to a bloody good ESTIMATED $33.1 million at 2,707 theaters ($12,228 per theater).
Blade 2's average per theater was the highest for any film playing this weekend.
Directed by Guillermo Del Toro, it stars Wesley Snipes.
"It could be heading to $100 million," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning.
"This was just terrific. It's Wesley's biggest opening and it almost doubled the first Blade's opening (of $17.1 million the weekend of Aug. 21-23, 1998)."
Looking at the opening weekend demographics, Tuckerman said exit polls showed were encouraging because they showed the urban appeal film played to a broader audience than expected. Those on hand were 69 percent non-African-American and 31 percent African-American.
"Non-African-Americans were 55 percent male and 45 percent female, which also is terrific," Tuckerman said. "The African-American audience was equally divided 50-50 (by gender). By age (the overall audience) was equally divided under and over 25."
Looking at New Line's timing in releasing the film now, Tuckerman observed, "One of the reasons I picked this date was because (in terms of upcoming openings) there was only Panic Room, which is not in our demo at all. It looks to me like there's four weeks for it to play without anything to bother it. And it looks like we're going to play for a while."
20th Century Fox's PG rated animated feature Ice Age fell one slot to second place in its second weekend, holding strongly with an ESTIMATED $31.08 million (-33%) at 3,345 theaters (+29 theaters; $9,291 per theater). Its cume is approximately $88.3 million.
Directed by Chris Wedge, it features the voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary.
"You know, if we had opened to this figure we would have been ecstatic," Fox distribution executive vice president and general sales manager Rick Myerson said Sunday morning.
"We have about 12 digital runs in North America. The presentation in digital is phenomenal because this was computer generated digitally. People are waiting for the next digital presentation at some of those theaters. What they're saying is, 'Look, I know there's one in 15 minutes, but I'd rather wait a half-hour and see the (next) digital presentation."
Noting that Ice Age is also playing abroad now, Myerson said, "The international market is unbelievable. (Based on early grosses coming in) they may have done $30 million internationally and they have only opened up the U.K., Germany and one other European country plus Singapore and a few South American (territories) and Mexico. But the numbers are just unbelievable.
"It's mirroring what we're doing. The numbers in Germany, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico and (other markets) are bigger than Shrek and Dinosaur combined, which were huge. It seems like the picture is just coming along with us (in paralleling its domestic success). The admissions they had in Mexico in 10 days were unheard of. If you take a bunch of animated pictures and put them together, (Ice Age is) doing better in those first 10 days. It's just phenomenal."
Universal's 20th year anniversary reissue of its PG rated sci-fi fantasy drama E.T. landed in third place with a happy ESTIMATED $15.05 million at 3,007 theaters ($5,005 per theater).
Directed by Steven Spielberg, it stars Dee Wallace Stone, Peter Coyote, Drew Barrymore and Henry Thomas.
"We're very pleased with E.T.'s performance," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "The whole idea of the reissue was to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a film that we at Universal and at Amblin are all very proud of.
"Its performance is very much like any Disney animated reissue, if you look at the numbers. It ranks number four in all time reissue openings behind the three Star Wars and that's good company to be in. There's every indication that the audiences that did go to see it absolutely adored the film, including the non-parents category."
Among non-family moviegoers, Rocco noted, "ratings were well above average among 25 year olds and over. They were also, of course, incredible for kids and for parents. But I highlight that category because it's interesting. You don't have to be parent or a kid to enjoy the experience of E.T."
Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated action comedy Showtime from Village Roadshow Pictures and NPV Entertainment slipped one peg to fourth place in its second week with an okay ESTIMATED $8.23 million (-45%) at 2,917 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,821 per theater). Its cume is approximately $26.9 million.
Directed by Tom Dey, it stars Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy and Rene Russo.
Sony's Screen Gems label launched its R rated thriller Resident Evil from Constantin Film, New Legacy Film and Davis Films dropped three notches to fifth place in its second week with a less scary ESTIMATED $6.6 million (-63%) at 2,528 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,611 per theater). Its cume is approximately $28.8 million.
Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, it stars Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez and Eric Mabius.
Resident Evil, which was made by Constantin for about $30 million, is being released through Sony domestically and in certain international territories, including all of Latin America.
"I think we're headed towards a very profitable $40 million (in domestic theaters)," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "It's the nature of the genre and the world we now live in (in terms of the highly competitive movie marketplace) that things drop a bit more than we'd like--not to mention some pretty strong competition from Blade 2."
Paramount and Icon Productions' R rated Vietnam war drama We Were Soldiers fell one rung to sixth place in its fourth week with a slower ESTIMATED $5.8 million (-32%) at 2,859 theaters (-284 theaters; $2,029 per theater). Its cume is approximately $61.7 million, heading for $80-90 million in domestic theaters.
Written and directed by Randall Wallace, it stars Mel Gibson.
DreamWorks and Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated time travel fantasy drama The Time Machine fell three pegs to seventh place in its third week with a quieter ESTIMATED $5.2 million (-52%) at 2,809 theaters (-149 theaters; $1,851 per theater). Its cume is approximately $48.0 million. The film is being released domestically by DreamWorks and internationally by Warner Bros., which co-financed its production.
Directed by Simon Wells, it stars Guy Pearce.
Universal, DreamWorks and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13 rated drama A Beautiful Mind--which has eight Oscar nominations including best picture--rose one notch to eighth place in its 14th week, still holding very well with an ESTIMATED $4.26 million (+26%) at 1,455 theaters (-78 theaters; $2,930 per theater). Its cume is approximately $154.9 million. How far it goes from here will depend on how well it does in tonight's Oscar race.
Directed by Ron Howard, the Brian Grazer production stars Russell Crowe, Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's R rated youth comedy Sorority Boys opened in a virtual tie for eighth place with an unfunny ESTIMATED $4.2 million at 1,801 theaters ($2,317 per theater).
Directed by Wally Wolodarsky, it stars Barry Watson.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Miramax and Universal's R rated romantic comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights, down three slots in its fourth week with a dull ESTIMATED $2.72 million (-38%) at 1,831 theaters (-481 theaters; $1,487 per theater). Its cume is approximately $34.2 million.
Directed by Michael Lehmann, it stars Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Miramax's PG rated drama Stolen Summer--famous for having been featured in HBO's Project Greenlight series--to a slow ESTIMATED $0.062 million at 13 theaters ($4,769 per theater).
Written and directed by Pete Jones, it stars Aidan Quinn, Bonnie Hunt, Kevin Pollak and Brian Dennehy.
Sony Pictures Classics' R rated comedy Son of the Bride opened to a hopeful ESTIMATED $0.037 million at 6 theaters ($6,098 per theater).
Directed by Joan Jose Campanella, the film is Argentina's official entry in the Oscars and a nominee for best foreign language film.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend USA Films' R rated romantic comedy Monsoon Wedding added theaters in its fifth week with a still festive ESTIMATED $0.81 million (+4%) at 128 theaters (+30 theaters; $6,310 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.3 million.
Directed by Mira Nair, it was produced by Nair and Caroline Baron.
Fox Searchlight Pictures' R rated romantic comedy Kissing Jessica Stein expanded in its second week to a still sexy ESTIMATED $0.55 million at 66 theaters (+40 theaters; $8,300 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.1 million.
Directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, it stars Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen.
"This Friday we're adding another 19 cities and we'll go up to over 30 theaters," Fox Searchlight distribution president Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning.
Focusing on Kissing Jessica Stein's performance this weekend, Gilula said, "It's terrific. The holdover theaters declined less than 10 percent and we continued to move into more regional cities where the film is performing extremely well. So we're seeing evidence of very, very strong word of mouth in a wide range of cities and theaters. It's crossing over into a broader and broader audience. So we're quite pleased about that."
IFC Films' unrated erotic drama Y Tu Mama Tambien went wider in its second week with a still hot ESTIMATED $0.46 million at 52 theaters (+10 theaters; $8,785 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.1 million.
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, it stars Maribel Verdu, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna.
Universal's international division reported Sunday that Ali G Inda House, its latest film from Working Title, opened in first place in the U.K. to a terrific $2.9 million for two days on 394 playdates. Ali G Inda House is 69 percent ahead of the second place Ice Age and has 32 percent of the marketplace.
Spy Game in its second weekend in Germany grossed $0.82 million on 634 playdates, ranking third behind the openings of Ice Age and Resident Evil. A Beautiful Mind was sixth with $0.6 million on 350 playdates.
In Austria, Spy Game grossed $0.1 million on 63 playdates in its second weekend, coming in second to the opening of Ice Age. Spy Game's international cume is $71 million.
A Beautiful Mind, a Universal DreamWorks co-production that is being distributed by UIP for DreamWorks, continued to hold very well internationally. In Australia A Beautiful Mind was second with $0.91 million on 220 playdates, down only 18 percent and only behind the opening of Ice Age. In the U.K., A Beautiful Mind grossed $0.5 million on 350 playdates, down 27% and fourth in the marketplace in its fifth week.
In Spain, A Beautiful Mind was fourth in its fifth week, grossing $0.3 million for two days on 200 playdates, down 25%. In Argentina, A Beautiful Mind in its fifth week took over the top spot on the chart again with a weekend gross of $95,000 on 46 playdates, down only 9 percent. In Brazil, A Beautiful Mind finished third in its sixth weekend With $0.22 million on 163 playdates, down only 7 percent. In Mexico A Beautiful Mind was fifth in its fourth week, with $0.34 million on 170 playdates, down only 10 percent. A Beautiful Mind's international cume is $64 million.
Key films--those grossing more than $500,000--took in approximately $132.66 million, up about 74.74 percent from last year when they totaled $75.92 million. Key films this weekend were down a marginal 0.33 percent from the previous weekend of this year's total of $133.81 million.
Last year, MGM's opening week of Heartbreakers was first with $11.8 million at 2,750 theaters ($4,291 per theater); and Sony's opening week of The Brothers was second with $10.3 million at 1,378 theaters ($7,477 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $22.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $64.2 million.