WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Pixar makes it ten gems in a row with this enchanting animated story of 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen a recent widower who decides to fulfill his (plus his late wife’s) lifelong dream of tying thousands of balloons to their house and floating off to a mountaintop in South America. But he soon discovers a stowaway in the form of Russell a precocious eight-year-old “Wilderness Explorer” who he reluctantly allows to accompany him on his journey. Together the unlikely pair embark on the adventure of a lifetime encountering Kevin a rare 13-foot tall-flightless bird; Dug an overly-friendly talking pooch; and Charles Muntz a once-famous adventurer who now lives alone in a massive airship surrounded by a pack of attack dogs.
WHO’S IN IT?
Sticking to their general custom of casting actors not big stars in key voice roles Pixar assembled a superb cast for Up led by veteran TV star Ed Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) as the aged Carl who takes flight in his house and finds there is a lot to learn about life even as you near death. Asner’s grumpy delivery provides the perfect counterpoint to nine-year-old Jordan Nagai’s Russell a bright and optimistic kid who proves an invaluable assistant to Carl throughout their journey. Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music) is authoritative and intriguing as the obsessed Muntz and John Ratzenberger (Cheers) extends his streak of Pixar films to 10 as a construction engineer who tries to convince Carl to sell his house. Bob Peterson does delightful double duty as two of the key dog voices lovable Dug and the menacing Alpha head of the pack.
Like Pixar’s previous Oscar-winning masterpiece Wall-E Up is a ‘toon that is not content to explore the same places we’ve seen in previous animated blockbusters. Centering an action comedy around a 78-year-old man isn’t a strategy you’ll find in the youth-obsessed Hollywood recipe book but it pays great dividends here with a moral that life’s greatest adventure is the one you share with someone you love. The non-humans — particularly Kevin and Dug — are hilarious and unique and a silent sequence detailing the courtship and marriage of the Fredricksens is a sweet touch that could have come straight out of a Charlie Chaplin movie.
With a string of critically-acclaimed hits that includes Toy Story Finding Nemo The Incredibles Ratatouille Wall-E and now Up Pixar is ruining it for everyone else. There is simply no way they can be topped when it comes to pushing the boundaries of animated movies. Bad for other studios. Good for us.
Could Up which just became the first animated film to open the Cannes Film Festival also become the first to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar since Beauty and the Beast in 1991 (before the Animation category was even established)? At this point in the year it’s actually a good bet. Whatever the case expect Up to earn several nominations come Oscar time.
A swashbuckling swordfight across the skies between two near-octogenarians? It’s the best action scene in a summer full of ‘em.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Oh pleeeeeease! Get to a theater fast. Up is also available in 3-D at select locations. Either way it’s a must-see.
Based on the award-winning book by Bernhard Schlink The Reader is an extraordinary provocative and controversial story set in post-World War II Germany. It starts when 15-year-old Michael (David Kross) becomes ill with scarlet fever and is helped home by sympathetic woman named Hanna (Kate Winslet). After his recovery he returns to thank her and is drawn into a clandestine affair with this intriguing woman more than twice his age. Their relationship grows stronger especially when he starts reading to her. But then she suddenly disappears leaving a devastated Michael who now must move on with his life. Little does he know that eight years later while he is in law school he would see Hanna again -- as one of the defendants in a court case against Nazi war criminals. Shocked at revelations about her secret past he also discovers something that will change both their lives forever. Granted Kate Winslet is one of the finest young screen actresses but her range in The Reader will astonish you. It’s an extremely tricky part that could easily lose the audience’s sympathy if done incorrectly but Winslet handles it with aplomb. She runs through the whole gamut of emotions -- aging from her 30s to 60s -- all at once sexy mysterious conflicted contrite as well as many other colors. As Michael newcomer Kross is devastatingly good the most impressive acting discovery in a long time. Although he plays 15 he was 17 at the start of filming and production had to shut down until he turned 18 for the graphic sex scenes. As the story flashes forward Ralph Fiennes takes over the role as the older Michael and does so with a touching sincerity. Lena Olin also has a strong cameo as a Holocaust survivor with definite opinions of Hanna. Although this is only acclaimed stage director Stephen Daldry’s third film he once again shows a mastery of the medium far beyond his limited cinematic resume. Like The Hours and his debut film Billy Elliot he has crafted another film to savor. The Reader isn’t necessarily the most comfortable film to watch but Daldry guides the subject matter with a delicate and steady hand giving us a complex and touching love story between the most unlikely couple. It also delves into how one generation of Germans can come to terms with the horrors of another. Daldry’s directorial restraint and power perfectly serves David Hare’s impressive screenplay and delivers a memorable movie-going experience.
January 25, 2004 1:59pm EST
It was a tough sell, but New Line Cinema's supernatural drama The Butterfly Effect, starring Ashton Kutcher in his first non-comedic role, soared to the top of the box office this weekend with a colorful $17.1 million*.
The Butterfly Effect's ripples were enough to send last week's box office topper, Along Came Polly, to second place with $16.6 million, followed by this week's only other new wide release, Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!, which won the No. 3 position with a rather trivial $7.5 million.
After weeks of close calls, Tim Burton's Big Fish finally overcame The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, defeating Peter Jackson's fantasy epic with a lofty $7.3 million. Return of the King, meanwhile, rounded out the Top Five with a still noble $6.8 million.
This week's box office also saw the reemergence of Mystic River. Warner Bros. decided to expand the film's release to approximately 1,194 sites Friday because of the critical praise it's received during the awards season. Since its release Oct. 10, Mystic has collected numerous nominations and awards for its director Clint Eastwood and the ensemble cast. This weekend, the film came in at No. 10 with $3.1 million, bringing its cumulative total to $58.5 million.
THE TOP TEN
New Line Cinema's R rated supernatural drama The Butterfly Effect kicked off in the No. 1 position with an ESTIMATED $17.1 million in 2,605 theaters, with a $6,564 per theater average.
In The Butterfly Effect, a college student discovers a way to travel into the past to access sublimated childhood memories. He soon realizes that in occupying his childhood body, he can stop the unsettling events before they occur.
Directed by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, it stars Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Elden Henson and Ethan Suplee.
Universal Pictures' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Along Came Polly, last week's box office champ, dropped to second place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $16.6 million (-40%) in 2,995 theaters (+11 theaters; $5,543 per theater). Its cume is approximately $53.5 million.
Directed by John Hamburg, it stars Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Debra Messing.
DreamWorks' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! debuted in the No. 3 spot with an ESTIMATED $7.5 million in 2,711 theaters with a $2,767 per theater average.
In the film, a grocery clerk in rural West Virginia wins a date with big-screen idol Tad Hamilton, much to the chagrin of her best friend and co-worker Pete, who is secretly in love with her.
Directed by Robert Luketic, it stars Kate Bosworth, Josh Duhamel and Topher Grace.
Sony's PG-13 rated drama Big Fish dropped a notch to third place in its seventh week with an ESTIMATED $7.3 million (-29%) in 2,438 theaters (-76 theaters; $2,994 per theater). Its cume is approximately $49.1 million.
Directed by Tim Burton, it stars Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter and Alison Lohman.
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King fell three rungs to fifth place in its sixth week with an ESTIMATED $6.8 million (-33%) at 2,558 theaters (-445 theaters; $2,678 per theater). Its cume is approximately $337.8 million.
Directed by Peter Jackson, it stars Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Miranda Otto, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG rated family comedy Cheaper by the Dozen dropped two notches to sixth place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $6.6 million (-27%) in 2,810 theaters (-215 theaters; $2,349 per theater). Its cume is approximately $122.7 million.
Directed by Shawn Levy, it stars Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff and Tom Welling.
Miramax Films' R rated Civil War drama Cold Mountain fell one place to seventh place in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $5.3 million (-22%) at 2,802 theaters (unchanged; $1,892 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $72.9 million.
Directed by Anthony Minghella, it stars Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger.
Warner Bros. PG-13 rated actioner Torque dropped three pegs to eighth place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $4.4 million in 2,463 theaters (unchanged; $1,797 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.2 million.
Directed by Joseph Kahn, it stars Ice Cube, Martin Henderson, Monet Mazur, Matt Schulze and Jaime Pressly.
Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Something's Gotta Give dropped two spots to ninth in its seventh week with an ESTIMATED $4.1 million (-29%) at 2,143 theaters (-359 theaters; $1,913 per theater). Its cume is approximately $107.1 million.
Directed by Nancy Meyers, it stars Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet and Frances McDormand.
Warner Bros.' dramatic R rated Mystic River expanded again after 16 weeks of release to round out the Top Ten with $3.1 million (+851%) at 1,327 theaters (+1,194 theaters; $2,355 per theater). Its cume is approximately $58.5 million.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, it stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden.
This week, the Top 12 films grossed an estimated $83.4 million, down 12.21 percent from last week's $95.05 million, but up 4.39 percent from last year's $79.9 million.
Last year, Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated horror pic Darkness Falls debuted at the No. 1 spot with $12 million at 2,837 theaters with a $4,239 per theater average; Warner Bros. PG rated comedy Kangaroo Jack came in second in its second week with $11.5 million in 2,848 theaters (+30 theaters; $4,055 per theater average); and Miramax's PG-13 rated Chicago came in at No. 3 with $8.2 million in 2,848 theaters+59 theaters; $13,375 per theater).
October 11, 2002 6:40am EST
Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is a former Special Forces operator who fed up with military bureaucracy retires from the army to lead a quiet life in the south of France or so one would think. Frank actually makes a living hiring himself out as a transporter carrying packages in his spiffy BMW. He manages to keep his nose clean by adhering to three simple rules: never change the terms of the deal never exchange names and never look at what's inside the package. But when Frank notices that one of his packages is moving curiosity and concern get the better of him and he takes a peek. A beautiful woman named Lai (Shu Qi) emerges from the duffel bag in his trunk and it's love at first sight. (We know this because of the overpowering instrumental love theme that goes along with the scene.) Breaking rule No. 3 gets Frank into a whole lot of trouble especially when he discovers the kind of mess Lai is involved in: she is trying to stop a ring of human smugglers led by her father.
Statham (John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars) carries this film with complete ease. There is an intelligence in his work that comes through here in the same manner it did with his character Turkish in Snatch. In Frank Statham creates such an identifiable character--stylish brawny and brainy--that audiences will want to revisit him in a few years just to see what he's been up to. The gorgeous Qi (Millennium Mambo) plays his love interest but her character has a piece of duct tape over her mouth for most of the film. It's not to say she is not a good actress but her lack of lines makes her character--whose loyalties are a bit confusing from the start--seem a little dimwitted. Worth mentioning is French actor Francois Berleand (Alive) who plays the role of Detective Tarconi a cop who knows Statham is up to something but lets him do his thing as long as he keeps it under the radar. The two actors have good chemistry on screen although their relationship could have been explored more. The same can be said of Matt Schulze (Blade II) who plays the main villain--nicknamed "Wall Street." Compelling bad guys are hard to find these days and it would have been interesting to see more done with this character.
Slick action scenes and artfully choreographed fight sequences are director Cory Yuen's specialty: he was martial arts choreographer for Kiss of the Dragon and The One and martial arts supervisor for Romeo Must Die. His extensive background in the genre shows in this film but while the The Transporter is visually exciting and technically well done it loses points for adding some really tacky elements to an otherwise action-packed flick. For someone as professional and calculating as Frank for example to break one of his long-standing rules at the sight of a pretty woman seems out of character. Writers Robert Kamen and Luc Besson have a great hook with the Frank Martin character but they introduce too many cheesy elements. I mean Asian families being shipped in containers and sold into slavery? Call me a cynic but human-interest stories simply don't belong in action movies.