Hugh Laurie is set to appear in the Andrew Adamnson-directed adaptation of the novel Mister Pip. Honestly, it doesn’t have much going for it: it’s an adaptation of a book. It’s about a white guy teaching some troubled ethnic youth's about the hardships of life. It’s being made by the guy who directed Shrek and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. And honestly, Hugh Laurie is a mark against the film as well. I highly doubt he’ll be as charmingly funny as he was in A Bit of Fry and Laurie nor will he be as bitingly cynical as he is in House. And he reads Great Expectations to the kids! That book is boring enough to read on its own, how much better can it be to have it read to you in a movie? I’ll go ahead and answer that one for you: it won’t be!
The romantic action comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is like nothing — and if you’re a person between the age of approximately 18 to 35 everything — you’ve seen before. British director Edgar Wright’s (Shaun of the Dead Hot Fuzz) adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley graphic novel is so densely laden with pop-culture references it often times feels less like a movie than a mixtape. Those who share the tastes of the film’s 31-year-old writer and 35-year-old director will find the experience to be exhilarating; those who don’t however will likely be at a loss to comprehend what all the fuss is about.
The list of ‘80s and ‘90s video game nods in Pilgrim alone is daunting: Tekken Super Mario Bros. Tetris Zelda and even retro titles like Galaga and Ms. Pac-Man are represented just to name a few. To fit all of it in Wright must practically invent a brand-new kind of filmmaking. Using techniques and iconography culled from the holy fanboy triumvirate of comic books video games and anime/manga and armed with a clearly generous effects budget he splatters the screen with a dazzling array of CGI visual aids as the action unfolds: informational pop-ups supply key details on each character as they are introduced; words like “Boom!” and “Pow!” burst forth when blows are landed during fight sequences; a “Level Up!” graphic indicating increased levels of key character attributes appears after the film’s hero triumphs in battle. Even the old Universal Studios logo has been revamped by Wright rendered in the rudimentary graphics and sound of the old 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. Call it easter-egg filmmaking.
At the center of this digital maelstrom is Scott Pilgrim a 22-year-old Canadian hipster waif played by 22-year-old Canadian hipster waif Michael Cera. Unemployed and in no great rush to find work he splits his time evenly between jamming with his middling band Sex Bob-Omb (a Super Mario Bros. reference) combing thrift shops for new additions to his near-limitless collection of ironic t-shirts and pining for Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) a beguiling New York City emigre whose signature attribute is her constantly-changing hair color.
After a few abortive encounters Scott finally gets Ramona to reciprocate his affections. Thus begins the quest — or "campaign " as gamers call it — portion of the film as Scott soon discovers that in order to secure Ramona’s hand he must defeat each of her seven evil exes (six boys and one girl) in spontaneous death matches of decreasing novelty. (A few of them could easily have been excised without harming the narrative but that might invite the ire of comic book fans who typically demand nothing less than absolute adherence to the source text.) With a variety of found power-ups and an entirely implausible collection of fancy kung-fu moves he faces off against among others a pompous vegan straight-edge (Brandon Routh) a self-absorbed action star (Chris Evans) a spiteful lesbian (Mae Whitman) and a smarmy record producer (Jason Schwartzman).
I expect Scott Pilgrim vs. the World will polarize audiences and not just because of Wright’s distinctively dizzying directorial style. (Which I thoroughly enjoyed even though it occasionally overdoses on manufactured quirk and is a bit too proud of its cleverness.) The film glosses over Scott and Ramona’s wooing process in its rush to commence with its succession of comic-book battles which grow somewhat tedious toward the end. It’s simply assumed that Ramona would fall for our protagonist as it’s likewise assumed that we already have. But not everyone will embrace Scott’s castrati hipster affect which too often comes across as grating rather than charming. (The movie’s funniest moments come courtesy of Scott’s sassy gay roommate played by Kieran Culkin who is never without a clever barb for his lovelorn pal.) And beneath Cera’s self-effacing sheen exists an unmistakable whiff of pretentiousness that isn’t entirely justified — at least not yet. Far less debatable is the appeal of Winstead whose spunky Ramona appears every bit worth the hassle of fending off seven or more ex-lovers.
God knows what she sees in him.
After being cursed by delays The Wolfman Hollywood’s latest spin on the popular werewolf myth finally bares its ugly fangs in theaters this week. Predictably the film is a train wreck of a debacle -- one would expect nothing less from a notoriously troubled production that saw its original director Mark Romanek abandon ship just two weeks before the start of shooting -- but The Wolfman’s problems stem less from the late-game addition of helmer Joe Johnston who at the very least delivered a terrific looking film (its gorgeously eerie Victorian aesthetic evoking a palpable exquisite sense of dread is by far its best feature) than from the misguided efforts of its producer and star Benicio Del Toro.
The Wolfman is the brainchild of Del Toro an ardent horror fan who conceived the film as an homage of sorts to the low-budget “monster movies” from the ‘30s and ‘40s that he loved dearly as a child. It’s fashioned as a loose remake of 1941’s The Wolf Man a film that both established Lon Chaney Jr.’s performance as the definitive take on the character and introduced aspects of the werewolf legend now considered sacrosanct. The notion that a werewolf can be felled by an item made from silver for example owes its origin to The Wolf Man.
But Del Toro feels all wrong in the role of Lawrence Talbot the prodigal son of a 19th-century English aristocrat whose fateful encounter with a bloodthirsty lycan the same creature that brutally murdered his brother just days prior triggers his unwitting initiation into the accursed tribe of feral man-beasts. Del Toro's resume of low-key understated performances marked by a muttering often imperceptible delivery in films like Traffic and The Usual Suspects suggests a skill set better suited to playing another famous movie monster one significantly less loquacious than his character in this movie. Seriously -- the guy should have remade Frankenstein instead.
Playing an American-bred (but English-born we’re told) character in an 1890 setting looking uncomfortable in period attire surrounded by such “proper” British actors as Sir Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt and fully annunciating all of his line readings for the first time that I can recall Del Toro appears hopelessly out of place in The Wolfman.
Things only get worse unfortunately when Del Toro’s character transforms into the dreaded werewolf. Each time the moon is full the film transitions with increasing ridiculousness from a somber Victorian drama into a hard-core horror flick replete with grisly shots of torn flesh exposed spines and severed limbs. The first overly gruesome attack triggers a kind of nervous laugh more from the shock than anything else. The second invites an amused uneasy chuckle which soon snowballs into an outright belly laugh. And the effect soon spreads to the dialogue the outrageous gore rendering the film's mannered melodrama strangely hysterical.
Of all the Wolfman players only Hopkins seems to get the joke reveling in his manipulative mischief as Talbot's inappropriately glib stoutly aloof father. If only he'd let his castmates in on it.
Ben Stiller's midas touch was at work again. His latest comedy Night at the Museum debuted on top of the North American box office over the holiday weekend, grossing $30.8 million.
Museum didn’t quite top Stiller’s highest opener, Meet the Fockers, which took in $46.1 million in 2004, but now stands as his second biggest debut.
Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone’s re-entry into the boxing ring after 20 years, opened in third place with $12.5 million, with a total of $22.1 million since opening Wednesday.
Also opening this week was The Good Shepherd, a saga about the early days of the CIA directed by Robert De Niro and starring Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie, which took fourth place with $10 million. The new football drama We Are Marshall, meanwhile, debuted in sixth place with $6.6 million.
Christmas weekend is always crowded as studios cram in family flicks and films angling for awards attention. This holiday weekend seemed even more packed than usual, Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers, told The Associated Press.
"I think the movies are beating up on each other a little bit because there's so many jockeying for position," Dergarabedian said. "I don't know how people find time to see all these films. I think it's probably overwhelming for a lot of moviegoers."
The Top 12 movies grossed $111.2 million over the weekend, up 10.46 percent from last year’s draw of $100.7 million and up .037 percent from last weekend’s total of $110.8 million.
The Top Three films at the box office this time last year were: Universal’s King Kong, which stayed at No. 1 in its second week of release with $21.2 million in 3,576 theaters, averaging $9,305 per theater; Buena Vista’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which stayed in second place in its third week with $19.7 million in 3,853 theaters, averaging $8,225 per theater; and Sony’s Fun with Dick and Jane, which opened in third place with $14.3 million in 3,056 theaters, averaging $7,045 per theater (Click here to read last year's box office report).
BOX OFFICE TOP 10, ESTIMATES
(Source: Exhibitor Relations, Inc.)
No. 1: Night at the Museum (20th Century Fox, PG)
• Gross: $30.8 million
• Weeks opened: NEW!
• Theaters: 3,685
• Per-theater average: $9,467
No. 2: The Pursuit of Happyness (Sony, PG-13)
• Gross: $15 million (-43%)
• Weeks opened: 2
• Theaters: 2,863 (+11)
• Per-theater average: $5,239
• Cume to date: $53.2 million
No. 3: Rocky Balboa (MGM, PG)
• Gross: $12.6 million
• Weeks opened: NEW!
• Theaters: 3,017
• Per-theater average: $4,201
• Cume to date: $22.3 million (opened Wednesday)
No. 4: The Good Shepherd (Universal, R)
• Gross: $9.9 million
• Weeks opened: NEW!
• Theaters: 2,215
• Per-theater average: $4,505
No. 5: Charlotte's Web (Paramount, G)
• Gross: $8 million (-30%)
• Weeks opened: 2
• Theaters: 3,728 (+162)
• Per-theater average: $2,146
• Cume to date: $26.8 million
No. 6: Eragon (20th Cent. Fox, PG)
• Gross: $7.1 million (-69%)
• Weeks opened: 2
• Theaters: 3,030 (+10)
• Per-theater average: $2,360
• Cume to date: $23.2 million
No. 7: We Are Marshall (Warner Bros., PG)
• Gross: $6.6 million
• Weeks opened: NEW!
• Theaters: 2,606
• Per-theater average: $2,548
No. 8: Happy Feet (Warner Bros., PG)
• Gross: $5.1 million (-38%)
• Weeks opened: 6
• Theaters: 2,565 (-770)
• Per-theater average: $2,006
• Cume to date: $159.1 million
No. 9: The Holiday (Sony Pictures, PG)
• Gross: $5 million (-38%)
• Weeks opened: 3
• Theaters: 2,617 (+3)
• Per-theater average: $1,911
• Cume to date: $35 million
No. 6: Apocalypto (Buena Vista, R)
• Gross: $27.9 million (-49%)
• Weeks opened: 2
• Theaters: 2,465 (unchanged)
• Per-theater average: $3,133
• Cume to date: $27.9 million
No. 10: The Nativity Story (New Line, PG)
• Gross: $4.7 million (+2%)
• Weeks opened: 4
• Theaters: 1,824 (-750)
• Per-theater average: $2,603
• Cume to date: $31.4million
Curse of the Golden Flower (Sony Pictures Classics, R)
• Gross: $489,139
• Weeks opened: NEW!
• Theaters: 60
• Per-theater average: $8,152
Letters From Iwo Jima (Warner Bros., R)
• Gross: $76,000
• Weeks opened: NEW!
• Theaters: 5
• Per-theater average: $15,200
The Painted Veil (Warner Indie, PG-13)
• Gross: $44,000
• Weeks opened: NEW!
• Theaters: 4
• Per-theater average: $11,000
Venus (Miramax, R)
• Gross: $36,237
• Weeks opened: NEW!
• Theaters: 3
• Per-theater average: $12,079
For a few years in the '60s and '70s producer Gerry Anderson made "supermarionation" all the rage in the world of British children's television. His stop-motion puppets starred in a number of sci-fi adventure series most memorably Thunderbirds which followed the exploits of International Rescue -- a team comprised of ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his sons. Based out of their secret fortress on Treasure Island the Tracys (aided by lovely secret agent Lady Penelope) used their amazing rocket-powered vehicles to prevent disasters and save lives around the world. Now 40 years after Thunderbirds' TV debut Star Trek vet Jonathan Frakes has brought Anderson's characters to life on the big screen. Front and center is youngest son Alan Tracy (Brady Corbet) who dreams of the day he too can pilot one of his family's fab ships and lead missions. But first he has to prove himself to his father Jeff (Bill Paxton). That opportunity comes sooner than either expects when mysterious villain The Hood (Ben Kingsley) strands Jeff and the older Tracy boys in space and attacks Treasure Island. With only his friends Tintin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) and Fermat (Soren Fulton) to help him Alan has to grow up quickly if he wants to save his family ... and the world!
It would be easy to mock several of the performances in Thunderbirds-- to chide Paxton for his earnest seriousness as Tracy patriarch Jeff to dismiss Corbet's angst-tinged eagerness as Alan to roll your eyes at Kingsley's over-the-top mystical fierceness as The Hood and to wince at Fulton and Anthony Edwards' nerdy stuttering as science whizzes Fermat and his dad Brains. But actors are only as good as their script and the one Frakes has given his cast (courtesy of screenwriters William Osborne and Michael McCullers) is weak and clichéd at best filled with after-school-special-worthy lessons for Alan to learn. "You can't save everyone " Jeff tells his son somberly and even Tintin has a moral for her crush when he's feeling selfish and indulging in self-pity: "This is hard on all of us Alan." Talk about insight! What makes it even more frustrating is knowing that the actors are capable of much more even the kids: Both Corbet and Hudgens did well with supporting roles in Thirteen. Thunderbirds' only real bright spot is Sophia Myles as Lady Penelope. A cross between Reese Witherspoon's Elle in Legally Blonde and Jennifer Garner's Sydney on Alias Myles' Lady P doesn't let her pink couture wardrobe prevent her from coolly kicking ass when the situation demands it. Attended by her droll driver/man-of-all-trades Parker (Ron Cook) Lady Penelope is a fresh feisty heroine with all of the film's best lines -- and the coolest car to boot.
Frakes cut his directorial teeth on episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and his first feature film was Star Trek: First Contact so he would seem like a natural choice to bring a cult sci-fi TV show to the big screen. Unfortunately while he does an admirable job re-creating (and improving on) the original Thunderbirds' mod sets cool ships and special effects (which are fine if a bit more TV-sized than summer blockbustery) Frakes can't seem to decide who his audience is. If he was aiming at grown-ups who remember the show fondly from their own childhood he should have embraced the source material's campiness (à la Starsky and Hutch) rather than restricting it to the Tracys' plastic Barbie-like furniture and Lady P's bouffant hairdo. If on the other hand Frakes was hoping to entertain today's kids he should have really reinvented the show for a 21st-century world (à la Stephen Hopkins'1998 Lost in Space) rather than clinging to the '60s references As it is he's stuck somewhere in the middle leaving adults bored during the kids-on-an-adventure bits and children mystified by the handful of jokes aimed at their parents.
Top Story: Septuagenarian Sues Dick Clark for Age Discrimination
Ralph Andrews, a 76-year-old game show producer, sued Dick Clark's production company Monday for age discrimination, claiming he was "embarrassed, humiliated and aggravated" when he was passed up for a job, Reuters reports. Andrews claims in his Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit that Clark, 74, sent him a letter in May of 2003 saying he was too old for a job with his production company. "People our age are considered dinosaurs. The business is being run by 'the next generation,' Clark allegedly wrote. "I've known Dick for 40 years. He misled me to believe he would happily give me a job doing what I do best--creating, developing or producing television shows," Andrews said in a statement. "If Dick's not too old then why am I?" A representative for Dick Clark Productions declined to comment, Reuters reports.
Blake Hires Lawyer No. 4
Robert Blake, charged with killing his wife three years ago, has hired his fourth lawyer since the case began, attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach, to represent him, The Associated Press reports. Schwartzbach, 59, has practiced criminal law for more than 35 years. "I'm convinced of Robert Blake's innocence. I'm confident he's going to be acquitted at trial," Schwartzbach said outside court. Blake's first two attorneys resigned after clashing with the actor over conducting media interviews and a third attorney stepped down Feb. 5, on the eve of Blake's original trial date, because of "irreconcilable differences" with his client. The trial is now scheduled to begin Sept. 9, AP reports.
Phony Movie Critic Brouhaha May Go To Court
Remember David Manning, the fake movie critic invented by Sony Pictures whose positive comments about crummy films were used in ads to promote them? Well, the class-action lawsuit moviegoers filed against the studio, whose faux critic paid high compliments to such films as Hollow Man and The Animal in ads that ran in U.S. newspapers in 2000 and 2001, might actually reach a jury. A California appeals court ruled on Thursday that suit could actually go to trial, Reuters reports, saying, "Although the films themselves enjoy full First Amendment protection, Sony's film advertisements do not." Still, Justice Reuben Ortega called the lawsuit "a farce" and "the most frivolous case with which I have ever had to deal."
Oscar is Lord of the Ratings
Although the 76th Academy Awards ceremony Sunday night held few, if any, surprises, the show saw its highest ratings in four years, drawing in 43.5 million viewers, Reuters reports. It was a 31 percent jump for last year's record low of 33.1 million.
McCartney Goes Back to the Drawing Board
After the success of his animated short Rupert and the Frog Song 20 years ago, former Beatle Paul McCartney will draw again, creating a new short Tropical Island Hum, AP reports. "In animation, it's good to have a bit of a childlike quality about yourself and I certainly have. It's just something that is in me," said McCartney, announcing the imminent DVD release of the new short film. McCartney's Rupert cartoon was the best-selling children's video of 1984. It was accompanied by the chart hit "We All Stand Together."
Lowe is Dr. Vegas, Baby!
Rob Lowe, whose NBC series The Lyon's Den was axed earlier in the season, is trying his hand on the small screen again with the CBS drama pilot Dr. Vegas. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the West Wing alum plays an in-house physician at a Las Vegas casino.
Time Warner Seals Deal With Music Division
Time Warner Inc. has sold its Warner Music division to an investor group led by Universal media conglomerate chief Edgar Bronfman for a cool $2.6 billion, AP reports. In a statement announcing the completion of the purchase from Time Warner, Bronfman said the company would "move quickly" to implement a strategy to meet its business challenges. Stepping down were Atlantic Records co-chairman Val Azzoli, president Ron Shapiro and Elektra Records chief executive Sylvia Rhone.
Role Call: Timberlake Investigates Reporter Role, Disney Fantasizes Over Narnia Chronicles
Justin Timberlake is set to tackle his first feature film role alongside Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman and LL Cool J in Edison. AP reports Timberlake will play a reporter who uncovers an elite team of corrupt police…Walt Disney Studios has set its sights on adapting all seven books in the C.S. Lewis' children fantasy classic The Chronicles of Narnia, beginning with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Variety reports the studio will co-produce with Philip Anschutz's Walden Media with shooting expected to begin in late June or early July in New Zealand and Czechoslovakia for a Christmas 2005 release. No cast or director has been attached as yet.