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]
Top Story: Britney Spears Performs Surprise Las Vegas Show
Britney Spears was back in the spotlight this weekend after giving a surprise performance Sunday morning at the Palms hotel-casino in Las Vegas--and the pop princess gave the 1,800 patrons at the Rain nightclub something to drool over. Rain co-owner Scott DeGraff told MTV News the DJ stopped the music at about 1 a.m. as a group of five or six dancers took the stage, shielding Spears, who then broke out from behind them to a roaring crowd. During her 30-minute performance, Spears and her dancers pretended to make out with one another on a giant daybed lounger and ended with one of the dancers ripping Spears' top off, exposing her red bra. The singer belted out some tunes from her still-untitled upcoming album, including "Me Against the Music" and "Breathe on Me." Spears' new album was originally slated for release November 25 but a statement on her official Web site says that the record's release had been postponed.
Johnny Cash Mourned at Private Service
Music legend Johnny Cash was remembered at a private 2 1/2-hour service Monday at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., the same church where services for Cash's wife, June Carter Cash, were held after her death in May. Cash, 71, died Friday of respiratory failure caused by complications from diabetes. According to The Associated Press, more than 1,000 mourners attended the funeral and listened to tributes from Rosanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson, preacher Franklin Graham, former Vice President Al Gore and other family members and friends. Also paying their respects were Vince Gill, Hank Williams, Jr., Dwight Yoakam, the Oak Ridge Boys and actress Jane Seymour. A public memorial is still being planned.
Schwarzenegger Tries To Woo Women Voters
Arnold Schwarzenegger wife Maria Shriver appeared on Monday's season premiere of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Schwarzenegger and Winfrey discussed old magazine articles that have resurfaced in which he describes a party-hardy lifestyle. The Republican said the comments reflected a 1970s strategy to pump up interest in the sport of bodybuilding. "We really were out there doing crazy things. We were trying to get the attention," Schwarzenegger said. "At that time I didn't think I was going to run for governor." According to the AP, polls show the Republican is struggling to win over women, the show's primary audience.
Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards Expecting
Actors Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards, who were married in June 2002, are expecting their first child early next spring, a publicist told the AP Monday. Sheen, who appears in the new CBS series Two and a Half Men, also has an 18-year-old daughter, Cassandra, from his first marriage. Richards, 32, and Sheen, 38, first worked together on 1993's Loaded Weapon 1 and met again while shooting the independent film Good Advice in 2000. They began dating after she guest-starred on Sheen's former sitcom, Spin City. The couple is also co-starring in Scary Movie 3, which opens Oct. 24.
Man Tries To Derail Blaine's London Stunt
A 40-year-old man was arrested Tuesday for causing criminal damage in attempting to derail magician David Blaine's planned 44-day fast in a glass box suspended from a crane in London, Reuters reports. Police said the man climbed nearby scaffolding and spent half an hour trying to sabotage Blaine's bid by attempting to cut through water pipes and power cables attached to the box. Since Blaine began his isolation challenge 10 days ago, he has been pelted with eggs, had golfballs driven at him, been teased by topless women and has endured late-night revelers waving the scent of fish 'n' chips at him.
NBC Preps Van Helsing Drama
In an unprecedented move, Universal has pacted with NBC for a drama series based on the studio's summer 2004 tentpole, the monster actioner Van Helsing, Variety reports. The film is set in the late 19th century and finds Bram Stoker's fabled monster hunter Van Helsing summoned to a distant Eastern European land to vanquish evil in the form of Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and the Wolf Man. The pact is unusual because the pilot commitment precedes the release of the film by eight months.
Role Call: More Trouble for Exorcist Prequel, G.I. Joe Gets Movie Deal
There is no end in sight for the problems that have plagued the production of Exorcist: The Beginning. According to The Hollywood Reporter, director Paul Schrader is no longer working on the project, which completed principal photography in February and is scheduled for release early next year. Schrader took over the project when the late director John Frankenheimer became ill, but he and producers James G. Robinson and Guy McElwaine have since run into creative differences in post-production. No replacement director has been named ... Go Joe! Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura has been recruited by Hasbro to make a movie deal for G.I. Joe. Di Bonaventura, who is expected to pitch a live-action film based on the greatest American hero, was drafted by the toymaker because of his experience as a Warner Bros. executive in managing such franchises as The Matrix, Harry Potter, Scooby-Doo and the Batman films.
Time to break out the Scooby snacks.
The canine Columbo and his human handlers live up to their pesky ways in Scooby-Doo, a live-action version of the cartoon classic that should easily trump fellow newcomers The Bourne Identity and Windtalkers this weekend at the box office.
The real mystery doesn't involve Spooky Island or its apparent owner, Emile Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson), but the ultimate fate of this family-friendly Scooby-Doo.
Perhaps in an effort to create a Harry Potter-type franchise, Warner Bros. and director Raja Gosnell keep this Scooby-Doo very much in the spirit of the original TV show. This means Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) never lights up and mellows out, Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) don't knock boots, and Velma (Linda Cardellini) remains firmly in the closet.
This lack of a post-modern spin--apparently evident in the original script and in some deleted scenes--might disappoint teens and younger adults yearning for another Brady Bunch Movie. But, if kids want to throw their arms around the CGI Scooby-Doo and their parents feel like taking a trip down memory lane, then Gosnell can expect a bigger hit than his Big Momma's House ($117.5 million). And, for once, Prinze's disastrous box office record won't be a hindrance.
In recent years, audiences have embraced the flesh-and-blood antics of The Flintstones ($130.5 million), George of the Jungle ($105.2 million) and Inspector Gadget ($97.3 million). They also wisely rejected The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle ($26 million), for being obscure and irrelevant, and last year's Josie and the Pussycats ($14.2 million) for its wildly contradictory stand on consumerism. Scooby-Doo ranks alongside The Flintstones as one of TV's most beloved animated series, so the Great Dane could match or exceed both The Flintstones' $37.1 million opening and total. It certainly helps that Scooby-Doo boasts the long-waited trailer for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Scooby-Doo should not face too much in the way of rivalry from Spider-Man or Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, both of which have peaked.
Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man now ranks fifth on the list of highest grossing domestic releases, passing Jurassic Park ($357 million) last week. With $373.8 million through Wedneday, the webslinger will need to employ all his superpowers to overcome Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace ($431 million).
Attack of the Clones, not Spider-Man, was expected to rake in the most money this year, but the second chapter in George Lucas' Star Wars saga dropped 33 percent in its fourth weekend, from $21 million to an unsatisfactory $14 million. The Phantom Menace made $14.1 million in its fifth weekend and $13.2 million in its sixth weekend. With $259.7 million through Wednesday, its 28th day in theaters, Attack of the Clones is lagging behind the $303 million that The Phantom Menace scared up during the same period. Attack of the Clones should manage to surpass The Empire Strikes Back's $290.2 million total by the July 4th holiday weekend. Regardless, Attack of the Clones looks set to become the first $300 million disappointment.
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron showed surprising endurance in its third weekend. The animated western, narrated by Matt Damon, dropped a modest 18 percent in its third weekend, from $11.3 million to $9.3 million. With $56.9 million through Wednesday, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron's staying power can be attributed to parents seeking out suitable entertainment for their vacationing children. Yet Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron will won't gain too much more ground with the arrival of Scooby-Doo and the upcoming Lilo & Stitch, Hey Arnold! and The Powerpuff Girls.
Jack Ryan, meet fellow CIA agent Jason Bourne.
The trouble with spies continues this week as Matt Damon battles with memory loss and fellow agency operatives in The Bourne Identity. Go director Doug Liman's stylish reworking of the Robert Ludlum novel failed to make its original Sept. 7 release date--reportedly because Liman wanted to shoot a pivotal action scene--and now arrives in the wake of spy flicks The Sum of All Fears and Bad Company.
Oh, but what could have been.
Universal had planned to open The Bourne Identity on May 31 against The Sum of All Fears, setting up what would have resulted in a delicious box office death match between old pals Damon and Ben Affleck. Universal wisely blinked, so Matt and Ben live to fight another day.
Damon's surprisingly convincing turn as a lethal weapon, coupled with Liman's ability to keep matters both smart and tense, should overcome any notions that The Bourne Identity doesn't deserve a theatrical release.
Damon, however, isn't going to best Affleck.
Amnesia is a tired plot device that, when handled predictably, results in a commercial misfire such as Jim Carrey's The Majestic. The Bourne Identity is no Majestic, but it isn't as inventive or intriguing as Memento. Also, The Bourne Identity is dark, brooding and unassuming, whereas The Sum of All Fears is loud, proud and patriotic. On top of this, Affleck's a proven commodity as an action star following Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. Damon's a relative neophyte when it comes to saving the day.
Damon should settle for an opening on a par with The Sum of All Fears' second weekend haul of $19.2 million and a total of around $60 million.
The latest Jack Ryan adventure, which has $68.8 million through Wednesday, should tumble by at least 40 percent to $11.5 million in its third weekend. That will bring The Sum of All Fears close to the $83.2 million total earned by the second Ryan yarn, Patriot Games, in 1992.
Jason Bourne will take out Bad Company without working up a sweat.
Saddled with scathing reviews, director Joel Schumacher's woefully unfunny and unexciting action-comedy managed to scrap up an $11 million opening purely on the appeal of miscast stars Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock. Audiences clearly are ready to gasp at the possibly of a nuclear threat on our shores--hence The Sum of All Fears' popularity-but not prepared to laugh at the CIA's attempts to halt such a terrorist attack. With $14.5 million through Wednesday, Bad Company looks set to make no more than $30 million for producer Jerry Bruckheimer of Armageddon and Pearl Harbor fame. That would rank as the worst showing for a Bruckheimer-produced offering since splitting with partner Don Simpson just before his 1996 death.
Bad Company's failure leaves Undercover Brother alone in the bid to solicit chuckles from comical spy games. Eddie Griffin's enjoyable blaxploitation satire scored a $7.3 million second weekend, down 39 percent from its $12 million debut, but it has $26 million through Wednesday. The Man might stop the low-budget Undercover Brother from exceeding Austin Powers's $53.8 million total, but thwarting future adventures of this Afro-wearing avenger isn't likely.
The war goes on for Nicolas Cage.
Last summer, Cage fought the Germans, wooed Penelope Cruz and plucked Captain Corelli's Mandolin. The result was a very disappointing $25.5 million. Cage's latest World War II tour of duty, John Woo's oft-delayed Windtalkers, should not fare any better.
MGM originally intended to release Windtalkers on June 29, 2001, after Pearl Harbor and before Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Yanking Windtalkers out of Pearl Harbor's path made sense, but then MGM misjudged the mood of the nation when it scuttled its Nov. 9, 2001, release in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedy. The war-themed Behind Enemy Lines, Black Hawk Down and We Were Soldiers managed to capitalized on America's post-Sept. 11 patriotism. MGM now needs Windtalkers to reverse its flagging fortunes after the disastrous Rollerball and Hart's War.
This Flag Day offering reveals the role that Navajo soldiers performed in helping the U.S. defeat the Japanese. Cage is the U.S. marine assigned to protect Adam Beach, a Navajo-American code talker. Cage's orders include killing Beach should he fall into enemy hands.
Unfortunately, Woo mishandles what could otherwise have been a unique and compelling war epic. Woo's trademark balletic approach to violence should lend itself perfectly to the horrors of war, but instead he throws at us one bloody but dull and impotent battle after another. He doesn't get much help from the cliché-ridden screenplay by Joe Batteer and John Rice or from the hammy Cage and the wishy-washy Beach. Add a romance that goes nowhere with obligatory love interest Francis O'Connor, and Windtalkers makes Pearl Harbor look like Saving Private Ryan. At least Pearl Harbor had that bomb falling from the sky.
Cage and Woo's first collaboration, Face/Off, packed a powerful punch in 1997, earning $112.2 million. Their participation in Windtalkers should ensure an opening double that of the $7.7 million endured by Hart's War, MGM's first race-related World War II drama of the year that made a lowly $19 million. Bad word of mouth will gun down Windtalkers, leaving MGM with a very expensive gamble that won't gross more between $40 million and $50 million. And could such a flop result in doom and gloom for the third Cage-Woo collaboration, the yet-to-be-filmed The Divide?
Dodging bullets came easy to the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
The Southern belles of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood giggled their way to a marvelous $16.1 million debut, a personal best for Sandra Bullock. It's also better than the $14.8 million opening of 1996's A Time to Kill, which also co-starred Bullock and Ashley Judd. This adaptation of Rebecca Wells' novel even tiptoed off with the No. 1 slot on Wednesday, earning $2.2 million to The Sum of All Fears' $2 million.
Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which has $22.8 million through Wednesday, looks destined to yammer on and on. Audiences clearly have had enough of Jennifer Lopez's Enough ($35 million through Wednesday) and are no longer interested in learning About a Boy ($33.4 million through Wednesday). There also is no wide-release competition for the female audience on the horizon. That means the sisterhood can expect to exceed Bullock's Hope Floats ($60.1 million) and possibly challenge her While You Were Sleeping ($81 million). It's doubtful, though, that without male support Ya-Ya Sisterhood can top A Time to Kill's $108.7 million.
More guests arrived for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which has $11 million through Sunday in limited release. The romantic comedy experienced an 85 percent increase in business last weekend after doubling its screen count from 207 to 443.
Greeted with so-so reviews, The Importance of Being Earnest dropped 19 percent in its third weekend, from $733,913 to $625,256, while remaining at 147 theaters. It has $2.4 million through Sunday. Director Oliver Parker had better luck with his first stab at freely adapting an Oscar Wilde play, An Ideal Husband, which had generated $5.7 million by its third weekend on the strength of terrific notices. Maybe its time Parker focus his attention on the works of another legendary playwright.