When seeking financial advice, most people would steer clear of the dude walking the street in a unitard with a can of silly string strapped to his wrist, but superheroes can actually help you learn to manage your money better — if you're a kid, that is.
Marvel Comics has teamed up with Visa to release a 16-page comic book that aims to teach children about finance. “A comic book with Spider-Man and the Avengers is the perfect device for making the sometimes dull subject of financial literacy entertaining and educational,” explains Jason Alderman, Visa’s senior director of global financial education. It's also a win-win for Marvel. Kids get a lesson about budgeting from Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the Hulk, and in a few months they might decide to spend some of that cash on tickets to The Avengers or The Amazing Spider-Man.
The comic is available for free at www.practicalmoneyskills.com/avengers along with a teacher's guide. Unfortunately, the comic doesn't answer the biggest financial question of all: Where do caped crusaders keep their wallets? [Kansas City Star]
It's very clear that during the current world turmoil, as war is played out 24 hours a day on television, audiences want to go to the movie to escape--and laugh their butts off.
The new Chris Rock comedy Head of State took the top office in movieland this weekend with a nice $14 million* in pocket change, defeating incumbant Bringing Down the House . The Queen Latifah/Steve Martin laffer followed closely behind with $12.5 million. So far, six of the ten top ten grossing films released in 2003 have been comedies.
"There's strong evidence that comedies are on people's minds," Jim Tharp, head of distribution for DreamWorks which released Head of State, told The Associated Press.
The other new releases were neck-and-neck in the final tally: The disaster film The Core opened at No. 3 at $12.4 million, while the military drama Basic came in fourth place with $12.1 million.
Meanwhile, no doubt capitalizing on winning six Oscars last weekend, including Best Picture, Chicago rounds out the top five with $7.4 million.
Overall box office numbers, however, are still down considerably from last year--at least 5 to 6 percent, Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations told AP. Studios are banking on the upcoming summer releases--starting with The Matrix: Reloaded which opens May 15--to help boost the sagging grosses.
THE TOP TEN
DreamWorks' PG-13 campaign comedy Head of State was voted into the top spot with an ESTIMATED $14 million at 2,150 theaters ($6,512 per theater).
The comedy centers on a good-hearted Washington, D.C., neighborhood alderman who is plucked from obscurity to run as a candidate for President of the United States--and shows how a real presidential campaign should be run.
Directed by and starring Chris Rock, the film also stars Bernie Mac, Lynn Whitfield, Robin Givens and Tamala Jones.
Buena Vista's PG-13 Bringing Down the House, which has ruled for the last three weeks, dropped a notch to No. 2 with an ESTIMATED $12.5 million (-23%) at 2,910 theaters (+39; $4,296 per theater). With a total of approximately $100 million so far, House joins How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days (whose cume is approximately $101.1 million) as the second film released in 2003 to hit the $100 million mark.
Directed by Adam Shankman, it stars Steve Martin and Queen Latifah.
Third place belonged to Paramount Pictures' new release PG-13 The Core, which nearly caught up to House with an ESTIMATED $12.4 million at 3,017 theaters ($4,110 per theater).
The disaster flick follows a team of scientists who must journey to the center of the Earth to jump-start the planet's slowing rotation before the world is literally cooked by electrical storms.
Directed by Jon Amiel, it stars Hilary Swank, Aaron Eckhart, Delroy Lindo, Stanley Tucci, D.J. Qualls and Tcheky Karyo.
Following close behind, Sony Pictures' R-rated Basic opened in the fourth spot with an ESTIMATED $12.1 million at 2,876 theaters ($4,207 per theater).
The military drama focuses on a rebellious DEA agent who investigates the disappearance of an elite squad of Army Rangers in Panama.
Directed by John McTiernan, it stars John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Connie Nielsen.
Dropping off a bit in box office grosses, Miramax Films' PG-13 Chicago managed to stay in the middle of the pack at No. 5 with an ESTIMATED $7.4 million (+20%) at 2,701 theaters (+136; $2,746 per theater). The film's cume is approximately $144.8 million.
Directed by Rob Marshall, it stars Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Last week's No. 2 opener, Warner Bros. R-rated Dreamcatcher, slid way down to sixth place with an ESTIMATED $6.3 million (-58%) at 2,945 theaters ($2,158 per theater). The film, based on the Stephen King novel about four friends who must deal with an alien invasion, has made approximately $25.3 million so far.
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan, the film stars Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis and Donnie Wahlberg.
MGM's PG-rated Agent Cody Banks, now in its third week, also dropped a few notches from third to seventh place with an ESTIMATED $6.1 million (-34%) at 2,786 theaters (-583 theaters; $2,190 per theater). The 'tweeny spy flick's cume is approximately $34.8 million.
Directed by Harald Zwart, it stars Frankie Muniz, Hilary Duff and Angie Harmon.
At No. 8, Buena Vista's animated G-rated Piglet's Big Movie dropped a spot from its opening last week but still attracted the younger set with an ESTIMATED $4.6 million (-25%) at 2,084 theaters ($2,207 per theater). The story about how little Piglet becomes the big hero has taken in approximately $12.4 million so far.
Directed by Francis Glebas, it features the voices of John Fiedler, James Cummings and Andre Stojka.
Miramax's PG-13 View From the Top slipped from its fourth place opening to ninth place with an ESTIMATED $3.8 million (-46%) at 2,508 theaters ($1,515 per theater). About a girl from a Nevada trailer park who sets her sights on becoming a flight attendant, its cume is approximately $12.5 million.
Directed by Bruno Barreto, the film stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Kelly Preston and Christina Applegate.
Rounding out the Top 10, Paramount's R-rated The Hunted took in an ESTIMATED $3.6 million (-44%) at 2,244 theaters (-273 theaters; $1,638 per theater). Now in its third week, the knife-driven thriller's cume is approximately $29.2 million.
Directed by William Friedkin, it stars Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro and Connie Nielsen.
United Artists' R-rated drama Assassination Tango opened in seven theaters with an ESTIMATED $64,000 ($9,143 per theater).
The film is directed by and stars Robert Duvall as an assassin stuck in Buenos Aires on a job who becomes enmeshed in the world of the dance club tango. The film also stars Ruben Blade, Kathy Baker and marks the debut of Lucianna Pedraza, Duvall's real-life partner.
This weekend's top 12 haul totaled only $87.3 million, down almost 24 percent from the same weekend last year, which saw a take of $114.2 million.
Last year, Sony's R-rated Panic Room debuted at the top of the box office with $30 million at 3,053 theaters ($9,845 per theater); Fox's PG rated Ice Age came in second with $18 million at 3,333 theaters ($5,441 per theater); and Buena Vista's G-rated The Rookie opened in third with $16 million at 2,511 theaters ($6,381 per theater).
The tall and lanky redhead from Australia is the toast of the town these days. Nicole Kidman just won a Golden Globe for her performance in last year's Moulin Rouge and is on just about everyone's A-list; she's probably thinking, "It's about freaking time!"
Joining the long list of projects she has been attached to recently--including Lars von Trier's Dogville and Robert Benton's The Human Stain with Anthony Hopkins--Kidman has made a deal to develop Court and Spark (hey, isn't that a Joni Mitchell album?) with Fox Searchlight.
Court is the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who married the King of France (Louis VII), started an affair with the King of England (Henry II), had her marriage to Louis annulled and eventually married Henry. Eleanor was flamboyant, beautiful and rich and it was her ardent wish to rule France. Unfortunately, her gender got in the way.
I can see Kidman playing Eleanor, but does anyone remember the exquisite Katharine Hepburn playing the colorful queen in 1968's The Lion in Winter, opposite Peter O'Toole as England's King Henry? Well, you should.
Hepburn only won an Academy Award for it, for heaven's sakes. Nicole might do well to watch this film a few hundred times to see how a great actress of our time portrays a great queen of all time.
Rock gets bit by the directing bug
Let's see how fast-talking, establishment-bucking comedian Chris Rock does at directing his first major motion picture. Rock has chosen DreamWorks' political comedy Head of State as his first foray behind the lens--of course, he'll also star in the film. Rock plays a Washington, D.C. city alderman who's thrust into the nation's presidential race as a replacement for a deceased candidate.
Not the greatest sounding premise but it has some potential. Rock needs to watch out for the Eddie Murphy syndrome, though. Murphy once tried his hand at a political comedy too (Distinguished Gentleman) and it failed miserably. Be careful, Chris.
Coming to theaters soon: The Olsen twins!
Lose your mind! Those too-cute-for-words teen stars Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen hit the silver screen once again, following their first attempt in 1995's It Takes Two. Forget about those measly home videos and television movies and specials. The big screen is where it's at.
The project for Warner Bros. is being kept under close wraps, but the film is said to be a comedy and will certainly set the blossoming teenagers on yet another fun-filled adventure. The girls recently bowed out of their ABC Family series So Little Time so they could pursue other ventures, including their fashion line and feature films.
How did these two manage to build an incredible empire at such a tender age? It really boggles the mind.
Downey's second (and third and fourth) chance
Robert Downey Jr. has enough lives to rival any cat. As screwed-up the guy is in his personal life, he is still the consummate professional and Hollywood is going to keep working with him until he either straightens out for good--or finally kicks it. Not to mention, I'll go see just about anything he does.
He's in negotiations to star in Six Bullets From Now, a film inspired by the real-life events of New Year's Day 1972, when five gunmen stole more than $10 million in cash and jewels from the Pierre's Hotel in New York City in broad daylight. The theft led to a massive FBI manhunt.
Ridley Scott is producing the flick under his Scott Free Productions shingle.
Bridges is a "Giver"
Jeff Bridges will star and produce the feature film The Giver based on the 1994 novel by Lois Lowry--and folks, the plotline is a doozy. I'm just going to have to take it word-for-word from the Hollywood Reporter article:
"Described as being in the vein of 1984 and Brave New World, the book carries the theme of sacrificing humanity for societal stability. It presents a world without pain, pleasure, racial or socioeconomic differences, crime, poverty, sickness, free will or love. In the community, every member has a role, and 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community's Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of a wise old man known as the Giver (Bridges), he gradually discovers the disturbing truth about his world: that its people have chosen to give up their humanity to create a more stable society. They must now struggle against the weight of this hypocrisy."
Wow. That's going to be a bright and cheery film. I can't wait.
Peter Pan, Wendy, Tinkerbell, Hook, The Lost Boys--all your favorite Peter Pan characters get to come to life when Revolution Studios, along with Walt Disney Co. and Sony's Columbia Pictures, bring the endearing J.M. Barrie story to the big screen in a live-action motion picture.
Of course, the story has been done and done--on television, on film, on stage--but we're always game for another rendition, especially when they are talking to the likes of Jason Isaacs (The Patriot) to play Captain Hook. But we are also a tad skeptical. Remember Steven Spielberg's lame attempt to bring an updated Pan to screen with Hook? Yikes. I can tell you one thing: they are not going to approach Julia Roberts to play Tinkerbell.