Former Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens has joined the cast of the new Night At The Museum movie. The Brit, who played Matthew Crawley on the period drama, will portray King Arthur's one-time sidekick Sir Lancelot in the third installment of Ben Stiller's hit film series.
Stiller and Robin Williams will return as security guard Larry Daley and Teddy Roosevelt, respectively, when the film starts shooting in February (14).
While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
[IMG: LFamilies flocked to Ben Stiller's version of the Smithsonian Museum this holiday weekend, reinforcing Stiller's winning box-office ways with Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, which earned a bigger than expected $70 million for the four-day holiday period. Moving the franchise from mid-December to late May paid off handsomely as the Fox film and its PG-rating made it an irresistible family-friendly treat that surprised many with its number-one debut.
In second place was the fourth installment of the Terminator series, Terminator Salvation starring Christian Bale, which earned $53.8 million for the four days and $67.2 million since its Thursday debut. With its appeal to sci-fi fans and those looking to see the intense Bale at work, the PG-13-rated film appealed to an older audience and those still interested in the saga of time-traveling hero John Connor. With three directors having worked on the series (James Cameron for the first two, Jonathan Mostow for T3 and now McG for T4), there have been a lot of chefs in the Terminator kitchen.
This weekend is quite reminiscent of the July 4, 2000 battle when the R-rated Mel Gibson Civil War epic The Patriot was expected to beat the PG-13-rated The Perfect Storm starring George Clooney. Perhaps this proves that a less restrictive rating seizes the moment, and on a holiday weekend, it can prove to be the Trump card to box-office success.
In third is the most elusive of all box-office creatures, the summer blockbuster with "legs": Paramount’s Star Trek. At $191 million in earnings with just a miniscule drop of 47 percent, the film is on the cusp of becoming the highest grossing film of the year — going strong and poised to surpass the amazing Monsters vs. Aliens, which now stands at $193.6 million.
In fourth is Sony/Columbia’s worldwide blockbuster, Angels & Demons with a holiday weekend take of $27.7 million. It was the number-one film overseas for the second consecutive weekend, earning $60.4 million in box-office sales and now stands at a whopping $286 million worldwide. The mystery thriller starring Tom Hanks is expected to hit $300 million on Wednesday.
Rounding out the Memorial Day weekend top five is the counter-programmed newcomer Dance Flick. The comedic parody had a modest budget and offered a new alternative for those looking for something a little different for their holiday movie-going.
Shocker of all shockers: This weekend did not break any significant box-office records — something we'd become used to seeing in this year's box-office bonanza. Nonetheless, of the past nine weeks, this was the eighth "up" weekend vs. last year and another solid box-office weekend at the nation’s theaters. With a YTD revenue advantage over last year of 14.45 percent and an attendance uptick of nearly 12 percent, this Memorial Day weekend was yet another building block in the pursuit of the first $10 billion year at the box office.
1. NEW! Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (Fox) - $70M; 4096 theaters; $17,090 PTA
2. NEW! Terminator Salvation (Warner Bros.) - $53.8M; 3530 theaters; $15,248 PTA; $67.1M cume (incl. Thursday's earnings)
3. Star Trek (Paramount) - $29.4M; 4053 theaters; $7,254 PTA; -47%; $191M cume
4. Angels & Demons (Sony/Columbia) - $27.7M; 3527 theaters; $7,854 PTA; -53%; $87.8M cume
5. NEW! Dance Flick (Paramount) - $13.1M; 2450 theaters; $5,347 PTA
6. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Fox) - $10.1M; 3183 theaters; $3,173 PTA; -46%; $163.3M
7. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (Warner Bros.) - $4.8M; 2255 theaters; $2,144 PTA; -43%; $46.9M cume
8. Obsessed (Sony/Screen Gems) - $2.5M; 1603 theaters; $1,560 PTA; -57%; $66.4M cume
9. Monsters vs. Aliens (Paramount) - $1.9M; 1434 theaters; $1,325 PTA; -55%; $193.5M cume
10. 17 Again (Warner Bros.) - $1.2M; 1107 theaters; $1,156 PTA; -70%; $60.5M cume
MORE BOX OFFICE:
LAST WEEK'S B.O.: Angels & Demons and Dollars, Oh My
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
This follow-up to the 2006 smash hit Night at the Museum picks up shortly after the events of the first film with one-time museum security guard Larry Daley now living the life of a famous inventor. One night he decides to pay a visit to his old haunt the Museum of Natural History where he discovers that some of his favorite exhibits (and old not-so-inanimate friends) have been labeled as “out of date” and are being shipped off to storage at the Smithsonian Institute archives. In no time he gets a distress call from miniature cowboy Jedediah who informs Larry that a group of history’s most notorious evil personalities including Ivan the Terrible Napoleon Bonaparte and Al Capone are hatching a conspiracy. Together with their ringleader the 3000-year-old Egyptian pharaoh Kahmunrah they plan to take over the Smithsonian and after that the world. Larry springs quickly into action teaming up with Amelia Earhart and tries to save his old friends — and perhaps the planet — from the insidious invaders who’ve awakened from their slumber.
WHO’S IN IT?
Ben Stiller returns as Larry playing straight man once again to a legion of historical figures including new and returning characters. Back from the original are Robin Williams as a spirited Teddy Roosevelt Owen Wilson as Jedediah Smith Steve Coogan as the Roman emperor Octavius Patrick Gallagher as Attila the Hun and Mizuo Peck as Sacajawea. Ricky Gervais again appears briefly at the start and finish as museum curator Dr. McPhee. Welcome additions include a lively Amy Adams as the famed female flyer Earhart and a very funny Bill Hader (TV's Saturday Night Live) as an insecure General Custer. Christopher Guest plays Ivan the Terrible while Alain Chabat has lots of fun as Napoleon. Jon Bernthal’s Al Capone meanwhile is cleverly shot and isolated in vivid black and white. Best of all by a mile — and the real reason to see Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian — is Hank Azaria who plays Kahmunrah with brilliant comic timing and an affected speech pattern that’s highly amusing. The multi-talented Azaria (The Simpsons) provides the voices for two new computer-enhanced characters: a towering Abraham Lincoln and Rodin’s sculpture of The Thinker. Jonah Hill also shows up in an early scene as a Smithsonian security guard who confronts Stiller — a subplot that goes nowhere.
Although this follow-up suffers from a severe case of “sequelitis ” director Shawn Levy knows what makes this formula work for kids. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian deserves props as the rare studio blockbuster intent on actually providing a little education by making these important historical personalities come to such vivid life. Use of photos and paintings from the adjacent museums is the most inventive new wrinkle serving as a clever interactive device for Stiller to use throughout the flick.
The screenplay (again by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon) rehashes a lot of what was fresh in the first film and the result feels roboticly recycled. Levy’s direction seems rushed at times as if the filmmakers are afraid anyone with an attention span beyond 30 seconds. Kids will eat this up but aside from Azaria there aren’t many laughs for Mom Dad and older siblings.
For pure visual-effects wizardry and wonder you can’t beat the gang’s arrival at the Air and Space Museum where the production actually shot for a week. It’s awe-inspiring. Amelia Earhart’s encounter there with the African-American Tuskegee Airmen is also a swell touch.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Multiplex but drop the kids off and go shopping instead.
Ever walk through a natural history museum and wondered what would happen if the wax figure of Neanderthal Man suddenly sprung to life? Or the skeletal remains of Tyrannosaurus Rex? Or Attila the Hun? If so then Night at the Museum is for you. The story follows one Larry Daley (Stiller) a down-and-out divorced dad in desperate need of a job. When he grudgingly accepts what he thinks is a menial graveyard shift as a museum security guard he finds out his first night just how difficult his new job will be when everything—and we mean EVERYTHING—in the museum comes to life. Total havoc ensues. At his wit’s end Larry must recruit the help of historical heavyweight Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) just to survive the night. Of course there’s a very silly reason why the museum is alive something to do with an ancient Egyptian tablet but whatever. Larry will either lose the job and disappoint his young son once again or he will stick with it control the chaos and become the best nighttime museum guard there ever was. Although Stiller is clearly the star player Museum ’s ensemble effort really makes the film. Williams chews it up as the larger-than-life Roosevelt with all his sage advice and “bully for you son!”s. Ricky Gervais joins in as the museum’s snippy director who tries to be a Mr. Smarty Pants but isn’t very articulate. Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney even make appearances as the old guards Larry is replacing and it’s great to see the 80-plus legends doing the comedy thing again. But the stand-outs are Stiller's old pal Owen Wilson (who isn’t credited in the film) and Steve Coogan (Around the World in 80 Days) as miniaturized figurines—Wilson’s a Old West diorama cowboy Coogan a warmongering Roman emperor—who are constantly at odds with one another. Of course Stiller is always good especially at the physical comedy as well as being a master at the reactive shot. His reactions to playing fetch with the gigantic skeletal T-Rex or playing slap happy with a whip-smart Capuchin monkey are priceless. Stiller had some trepidations in making Night at the Museum since he’s used to racier stuff. He admitted to Entertainment Weekly “I always connected the family-film thing with sort of a milquetoast thing. There’s that fear do you lose your edge if you do that? You’re making jokes a 6-or-7 year-old has to get... We kept trying to think what would be spooky yet funny? Hard to figure that out.” Stiller and director Shawn Levy (Cheaper by the Dozen) nearly get it right. There’s big gaping flaws in logic and the film’s main conflict (the old guards try to steal the Egyptian tablet for their own preservation) is pretty sketchy at best. But through obvious ad-libbing much of Museum’s humor is spot-on for the adults. Take for example when the whole Old West diorama tries to take down Larry on the train tracks Gulliver’s Travel-style the cowboy yells “Fire up the old iron horse boys and split his head in two!” But the toy train merely rams into Larry’s nose. Good stuff. Stiller shouldn’t worry too much about going PG though. Like Adam Sandler the actor seems to have a golden touch when it comes to his comedies.