Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
The Cat pulled a load of cash out of his Hat this weekend at the box office.Proving you can have fun if you know how, Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat thing-a-ma-jigged its way to No. 1, opening with a respectable $40.1 million*, but paled in comparison to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the previous Seuss' adaptation, which opened in 2000 with $55 million.Though mostly lambasted by film critics, The Cat in the Hat may hold up well through the holidays, Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations told The Associated Press. "Little kids, they want what they want, and they don't care about reviews," Dergarabedian said. "Parents do have some say in the decision, but most of the time they'll just go along with the kids." The ghostly Gothika also debuted strongly, taking second place with $19.6 million, while last week's No.1 Elf dropped to third with $19.1 million. The historical Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World captured the fourth spot with $15.2 million, and rounding the top five was the sweetly romantic Love Actually with $9.1 million.THE TOP TENUniversal Pictures' PG-rated Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat became box office champion on its opening weekend with an ESTIMATED $40.1 million at 3,265 theaters. Its $12,282 per theater average was the highest of any film opening wide this week.This colorful adaptation of the children's classic tale is about two kids visited on a rainy day by a six-foot talking Cat in an oversized red-striped Hat who shows them how to have fun.Directed by Bo Welch, it stars Mike Myers, Dakota Fanning, Spencer Breslin, Kelly Preston, Alec Baldwin and Sean Hayes.Warner Bros.' R-rated spooky thriller Gothika took second place with an ESTIMATED $19.6 million at 2,382 theaters ($8,237 per theater).The story follows a criminal psychologist who finds herself in a nightmarish situation when she wakes up in a prison for the criminally insane without any memory of killing her husband. Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, it stars Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr., Penelope Cruz and Bernard Hill.Last week's champ, New Line Cinema's PG-rated holiday comedy Elf dropped to third in its third week of release with an ESTIMATED $19.1 million (-27%) at 3,381 theaters (unchanged; $5,657 per theater). Its cume is approximately $95.1 million.Directed by Jon Favreau, it stars Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Zooey Deschanel and Mary Steenburgen.Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13-rated naval epic Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World fell to the fourth spot in its second week with an ESTIMATED $15.2 million (-39%) at 3,101 theaters (unchanged; $4,902 per theater). Its cume is approximately 47.2 million.Directed by Peter Weir, it stars Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany.Universal Pictures' R-rated romantic comedy Love Actually actually jumped up a spot to No. 5 in its third week with an ESTIMATED $8.8 million (+5%) in 1,690 theaters (+513 theaters; $5,385 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.8 million.Directed and written by Richard Curtis, it stars Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley and Bill Nighy.*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.Warner Bros. R-rated sci-fi actioner The Matrix Revolutions dropped three notches to sixth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $6.7 million (-59%) in 3,024 theaters (-478; $2,229 per theater). Its cume is approximately $125 million.Directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, it stars Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving.Buena Vista's G-rated animated film Brother Bear slipped three spots to seventh place in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $5.5 million (-54%) in 2,885 theaters (unchanged; $1,905 per theater). Its cume is approximately $70.4 million. Directed by Aaron Blaise and Bob Walker, it features the voices of Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez, D.B. Sweeney and Michael Clarke Duncan.Warner Bros.' PG-rated live-action feature Looney Tunes: Back in Action dropped three rungs to No. 8 in its second week with an ESTIMATED $4.1 million (-56%) in 2,903 theaters (unchanged; $1,414 per theater average). Its cume is approximately 14.7 million.Directed by Joe Dante, it stars Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Steve Martin, Timothy Dalton and Heather Locklear.Dimension Films' PG-13-rated spoof Scary Movie 3 fell two spots to ninth place in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $3.2 million (-44%) in 2,359 theaters (-601 theaters; $1,392 per theater). Its cume is approximately $106.6 million. Directed by David Zucker, it stars Anna Faris, Charlie Sheen, Simon Rex, Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, George Carlin and Leslie Nielsen.Sony Pictures' PG-13-rated drama Radio slid down two notches to 10th position in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $2.6 million (-46%) in 1,925 theaters (-491 theaters; $1,351 per theater). Its cume is approximately $47 million.Directed by Michael Tollin, it stars Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Ed Harris.OTHER OPENINGSFocus Features' R-rated 21 Grams opened in eight theaters with $256,434, a $32,054 per theater average.Following the lives of three people--a college professor balanced between life and death, a woman who has matured after her reckless past, and a religious ex-con struggling to provide for two children. A tragic accident that claims several lives places these people in each other's orbit. Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, it stars Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts.WEEKEND COMPARISON The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $128.8 million, up 5.55 percent from last weekend's $122.1 million take but down 11 percent from last year's $144.9 million.Last year, MGM's PG-13-rated Die Another Day opened in first place with $47 million at 3,314 theaters ($14,204 per theater); Warner Bros.' PG-rated Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets dropped to second with $42.2 million in 3,682 theaters ($11,469 per theater); and New Line Cinema's R-rated Friday After Next debuted in the third spot with $13 million at 1,616 theaters ($8,051 per theater).
Go to our Box Office section for recent weekend movie analysis.
An overgrown elf from the North Pole drew more moviegoers than any of this week's new wide releases as Elf took the No. 1 spot in its second week with a cheery $27.2 million* at the weekend box office.
Elf's impressive pre-holiday take was enough to beat out Russell Crowe's Napoleonic War epic, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which followed in close second with $25.7 million.
Last week's box office champ, The Matrix Revolutions, lost more than 60 percent of its audience in its second week. The third and final chapter of The Matrix trilogy took in $16.3 million to place third.
Revolutions's take, however, was enough to push it past the $100 million mark, making it the 22nd film in 2003 to do so. Scary Movie 3, which came in seventh this week, became the 23rd film this year to cross $100 million. By comparison, a record 24 films beat that benchmark in 2002.
Animated fare rounded out the Top Five with Brother Bear taking in $12 million to take fourth place followed by Looney Tunes: Back in Action, which came in at No. 5 with $9.5 million.
THE TOP TEN
New Line Cinema's PG rated holiday comedy Elf captured the No. 1 title for the first time in its second week of release with a remarkable ESTIMATED $27.2 million (-12%) at 3,381 theaters (+44 theaters; $8,056 per theater). Its cume is approximately $71.2 million.
Directed by Jon Favreau, it stars Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Zooey Deschanel and Mary Steenburgen.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13 rated naval epic Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World debuted in second place with an ESTIMATED $25.7 million at 3,101 theaters, with a brawny $8,296 per theater average--the highest of any film playing this week.
Set against the backdrop of Napoleonic Wars, the film revolves around Capt. Jack Aubrey and his ship's surgeon, who sail out to see the richness and strangeness of life on the far side of the world.
Directed by Peter Weir, it stars Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany.
Warner Bros. R rated sci-fi actioner The Matrix Revolutions dropped two notches to third place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $25.7 million (-66%) in 3,502 theaters (unchanged; $4,660 per theater). Its cume is approximately $114.1 million.
Directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, it stars Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving.
Buena Vista's G rated animated film Brother Bear dropped one spot to fourth place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $16.3 million (-35%) in 3,030 theaters (unchanged; $4,660 per theater). Its cume is approximately $63 million.
Directed by Aaron Blaise and Bob Walker, it features the voices of Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez, D.B. Sweeney and Michael Clarke Duncan.
Warner Bros.' PG rated live action feature Looney Tunes: Back in Action opened in fifth place with an ESTIMATED $9.5 million in 2,903 theaters with a $3,276 per theater average.
In the film, Daffy Duck gets tired of playing second fiddle to Bugs Bunny and quits Hollywood, teams up with recently fired stuntman Bobby Delmont and embarks on an around-the-world adventure to find a missing blue diamond.
Directed by Joe Dante, it stars Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Steve Martin, Timothy Dalton and Heather Locklear.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Universal Pictures' R rated romantic comedy Love Actually stayed in the sixth spot in its second week with an ESTIMATED $8.8 million (+29%) in 1,177 theaters (+601 theaters; $7,545 per theater). Its cume is approximately $19 million.
Directed and written by Richard Curtis, it stars Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley and Bill Nighy.
Dimension Films' PG-13 rated spoof Scary Movie 3 fell three rungs to seventh place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $6.1 million (-44%) in 2,960 theaters (-328 theaters; $2,063 per theater). Its cume is approximately $102.3 million.
Directed by David Zucker, it stars Anna Faris, Charlie Sheen, Simon Rex, Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, George Carlin and Leslie Nielsen.
Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated drama Radio dropped three notches to eight place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $5 million (-31%) in 2,416 theaters (-395 theaters; $2,070 per theater). Its cume is approximately $43.7 million.
Directed by Michael Tollin, it stars Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Ed Harris.
Paramount Pictures' R rated documentary Tupac: Resurrection debuted in ninth place with an ESTIMATED $4.6 million at 801 theaters with a strong $5,818 per theater average.
The film is a documentary about iconic hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur, who was shot and killed in September 1996, narrated in his own words through a variety of interviews, journal readings, private home movies and never-before-seen concert footage.
Directed by Lauren Lazin and produced by Afeni Shakur, it features Tupac Shakur.
Warner Bros.' R rated drama Mystic River dropped two spots to tenth in its sixth week with an ESTIMATED $3.2 million (-31%) in 1,550 theaters (-31 theaters; $2,145 per theater). Its cume is approximately $45.6 million.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, it stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $124.2 million, down 13.57 percent from last weekend's $143.7 million take. The Top 12 movies were also down 23 percent from this time last year when they took in $161.3 million.
Last year, Warner Bros.' PG rated Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets debuted in first place with $88.3 million in 3,682 theaters ($23,997 per theater); Universal's R rated 8 Mile came in second place in its second week with $19.3 million in 2,496 theaters ($7,750 per theater); and Buena Vista's G rated The Santa Clause 2 came in third in its third week with $15.1 million in 3,346 theaters ($4,513 per theater).
It looks like the third Austin Powers offshoot will begin filming this fall in Los Angeles. The film, titled Goldmember, is expected to hit theatres July 26, 2002.
We witnessed the world-class playboy and part-time secret agent from the 1960s emerge after thirty years in a cryogenic state to battle with his nemesis Dr. Evil in International Man of Mystery.
In The Spy Who Shagged Me, he was sent back to 1969 in a newly developed time machine-a psychedelic Volkswagen Beetle-to thwart Dr. Evil's plot to destroy the world.
Goldmember follows the lead of recent blockbuster franchises and is gearing up as a prequel to the two successful Austin Powers feature films. The film will flash back to the 1950s when Austin and Dr. Evil are classmates. The two apparently become enemies after a falling out of some sort. Maybe audiences will finally get to find out why Dr. Evil's been a frickin' evil doctor for 30 frickin' years.
Austin may also find his long lost parents.
Director Jay Roach, who was responsible for the first two Austin Powers films, is helming the project.
He puts the grrr in swinger, baby
Funnyman Mike Myers wrote the script and will also play multiple characters in the film. He will reprise his role as Austin Powers, his nemesis Dr. Evil and the over indulgent and dead sexy Fat Bastard.
The latest smoking gun in Myers' arsenal of characters is a villain called Goldmember. Will Austin discover that Goldmember is a millionaire industrialist who cheats at cards and golf? It looks as though fans will have to wait until next summer to find out what this villain is all about, since producers are keeping mum on the subject.
But Myers isn't kidding around about his salary. The comic actor will reportedly receive a $25 million advance against 21percent of gross profits.
Please, allow myself to introduce....
There is a long list of cast members for Goldmember. Many actors from previous Austin Powers flicks will return, including Robert Wagner as Number Two, Rob Lowe as young Number Two, Seth Green as Scott Evil and Verne Troyer as Mini-Me. While Will Ferrell, Mindy Sterling, and Michael York may also return, there are surprises in store.
Michael Caine will apparently be joining the cast as Captain Hendricks, a security officer for the Royal Navy. Honor Blackman has been mentioned to play Austin's mother, and rumors are circulating that Tom Cruise and Pierce Brosnan may make cameo appearances. As Austin's father possibly?
The producers of Goldmember also held an open casting call in October in Hollywood. A press release stated they were looking for 16- to 22-year-olds with a physical resemblance to Austin Powers, Dr. Evil, Number Two (the character played by Robert Wagner and Rob Lowe), and Basil (the character played by Michael York). It also mentioned they should be able to perform an impression of the characters to play their younger counterparts.
She's the village bicycle. Everybody's had a ride
No Austin Powers movie would be complete without a love interest. We all know what became of the explosive Vanessa Kensington, played by Elizabeth Hurley. Is anything of that magnitude in store for Felicity Shagwell? Luckily for Austin, he never forgets a pussy...cat.
While Heather Graham will make a cameo appearance in Goldmember reprising her role as Felicity, her fate remains a secret. Rumor has it Graham did not want to sign on to the project if her character was to perish.
But after all, Austin just got his mojo back and it would be a shame to waste his restored libido on one woman. The new Austin Powers babe will be the Destiny's Child temptress Beyoncé Knowles.
Irish R&B singer Samantha Mumba has also recently signed on to the project, but her role has not been announced.