Jerry Zucker, who made his mark in Hollywood with the Airplane! movies is getting a bumpy ride from critics with his latest film, Rat Race. With some, he flies high. Richard Schickel in Time magazine, for example, writes that he resists going "all cosmic about an agreeably funny, well-made comedy designed for nothing grander than relief from the August heat." But, he writes, for the most part "it's a fine madness." Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times writes that the film is "the most old-fashioned, live-action comedy of the summer, and if you've seen its competition, you know that has to be a good thing." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News gives the film four stars and concludes: "The movie is over in a breezy 112 minutes, but it may be another half-hour before your sides quit aching." Fittingly, Dave Kehr, Mathews' predecessor at the Daily News, who reportedly was fired for writing too many negative reviews, writes a perfunctorily negative review of Rat Race for the online CitySearch website. "This is one nasty movie," Kehr writes, "driven by a sadistic spirit and a complete contempt for its characters." Like most critics, Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal compares the movie -- unfavorably -- to Stanley Kramer's 1963 comedy extravaganza It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. "This ripoff ... has a few funny moments," he remarks, "but it's a sad sad sad sad example of what Hollywood is currently serving up ... as summer entertainment." Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer calls the film "a true and scary dud," while Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal concludes: "Most of the movie is more obnoxious than funny with jokes that are too broad or too stale or both."
Breaking his recent silence over negotiations with General Motors for Hughes Electronics, operator of DirecTV, Rupert Murdoch said Thursday that speculation in the press about his proposals to GM were "widely off the mark" and sometimes "dead wrong." Although news reports had quoted Hughes shareholders as expressing dismay that Murdoch was not offering a premium beyond the current net worth of the stock, Murdoch said Thursday, "The deal under discussion includes a healthy premium as well as synergies no other company could match." Murdoch made his remarks as he spoke to reporters during a telephone news conference after News Corp reported a net loss of $265 million during the last quarter. Much of the loss was attributed to a write-down of the Australian telephone company One.Tel. Murdoch noted that while he was pleased with the success of the 20th Century Fox summer releases Planet of the Apes and Dr. Dolittle 2, he was not bullish about News Corp's advertising-dependent print and broadcast properties. "The advertising market is weak, so much of the revenue we are enjoying is in relatively short-term bookings," he said.
Disney will apparently attempt to keep Pearl Harbor in theaters until it passes the $200-million mark and thereby earns the studio additional bragging points. Playing now on 462 screens after 11 weeks, the film earned $435,000 over the weekend. Its gross currently stands at $194.6 million.
movie writer Peter Howell reported Friday that he recently received a high-quality bootleg video compact disc (VCD) of Planet of the Apes that was downloaded from the Internet. The film, he said, plays full-screen on a computer monitor, with good picture and sound, and offers subtitles in Indonesian and Chinese. The ease with which the film was obtained, Howell wrote, "made it obvious that the Napster file-trading phenomenon that has rocked the music industry over the past year has caught up to Hollywood with a vengeance." Howell's source for the disc told him, "Most people aren't making discs to sell. It's just fun for them to have a brand-new release that's still in theaters. It's the thrill of doing something illicit."
In a new promotion, 20th Century Fox and Nokia have signed a deal to promote Planet of the Apes on cell phone screens in Europe. Users of the Nokia devices will be able to log onto the Nokia site https://www.club.nokia.com/login/join_club_nokia/default.asp where they can download more than 20 different characters and images from the movie. In a statement, Sarah Meltzer, executive director of international promotions at Fox, said that the technology "provides us a unique means to deliver appealing content to a wide movie-going population. We hope to use this promotion as a stepping stone to larger initiatives on future feature films."
DreamWorks' animated Shrek, which has already piled up $256 million at the domestic box office, has now topped $100 million overseas. According to Screen International, the British trade publication, Shrek has now earned $28.5 million in the U.K. alone. (For some reason, never explained in the film, the main character, Shrek, voiced by Mike Myers, is the only character who speaks with a Scottish brogue.) United International Pictures (UIP), which distributes DreamWorks' releases as part of a deal with Universal, one of its two stakeholders (the other is Paramount), estimated Wednesday that Shrek has now earned $111.3 million internationally. Screen International estimated that the film's worldwide gross should pass the $400-million mark within the next few weeks. The only other film to have reached that mark this year is The Mummy Returns.
Hayao Miyazaki's latest animated feature Spirited Away held off a forceful challenge by Planet of the Apes in Japan last weekend, according to Screen Daily, the online edition of the British trade publication Screen International. Notwithstanding the appeal of Miyazaki's film, the box-office performance of Apes proved spectacular as it earned $5.5 million on 326 Japanese screens, an average of $16,871 per screen.
Shares in Sydney-based News Corp shot up on the Australian stock exchange on word of the spectacular performance of 20th Century Fox's Planet of the Apes at the North American box office over the weekend. The $69 million earned at the box office translated to a gain of about $2.58 billion (US$1.34 billion) in News Corp's market value. The film's success -- it was the biggest non-holiday premiere in history -- appeared to offset poor performances by such recent 20th Century Fox releases as Say It Isn't So and Monkeybone, both of which tanked, and Moulin Rouge, which merely disappointed. The studio saw a 34-percent drop in net profit during the company's third quarter, which ended on March 31. Ticket sales for the top 12 films jumped 18 percent to $143.5 versus the same weekend a year ago, according to box-office trackers Exhibitor Relations.
The top 10 films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Planet of the Apes, 20th Century Fox, $68,532,960, (New); 2. Jurassic Park III, Universal, $22,542,645, ($124,824,290); 3. America's Sweethearts, Sony, $15,402,622, ($59,105,830); 4. Legally Blonde, MGM, $9,005,364, ($59,843,094); 5. The Score, Paramount, $7,053,201, ($49,139,109); 6. Doctor Dolittle 2, 20th Century Fox, $4,633,601, ($101,223,343); 7. Cats & Dogs, Warner Bros., $4,617,236, ($81,626,437); 8. The Fast and the Furious, Universal, $4,090,275, ($132,482,600); 9. Scary Movie 2, Miramax/Dimension, $2,717,900, ($67,201,319); 10. Shrek, DreamWorks, $1,792,718, ($255,526,280).
Twentieth Century Fox has asked Internet service providers to monitor message boards on which persons have posted notices offering downloads of Planet of the Apes and to pull the plug on their accounts, according to Screen Daily, the online edition of the British trade publication Screen International. "We trust that we will be able to count on your prompt action to ... stop the infringement of our rights," Fox said in a letter to the ISPs. One provider, Verizon, responded that the request was an effort to shift the responsibility for monitoring piracy on the Web onto the ISPs.
This weekend will see the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III do battle with the newly arrived simians of Planet of the Apes. Most analysts are predicting a victory for the apes, but, given Jurassic Park's astonishing performance last weekend, many of them are hedging their bets. Last weekend Jurassic opened with $50.1 million in ticket sales, but some analysts suggest that Apes may make that look like chicken feed. Robert Bucksbaum of Reel Source, in an interview with Bloomberg News, forecast that Apes will rake in $62 million and Michael O'Rorke of HSX Research forecast $57.6 million. The biggest July opener ever was 20th Century Fox's X-Men which took in $54.5 million last year.