Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
Even without having read Mark Helprin's novel Winter's Tale, I have the unshakable feeling that Akiva Goldsman's film adaptation does not do the story justice. Speckled throughout the moreover colorless movie are hints of an intriguing idea — a fantasy epic about an angel-demon bureaucracy coexisting with the human race throughout the span of 20th century New York City, operating within the parameters of a didactic miracle-granting system — an idea that doesn't come close to its full potential. In 118 minutes, we barely scratch the surface of the world in which an apparently immortal Colin Farrell finds himself. We see him cavort with Russell Crowe, a malicious gang-leader with netherworld origins, seek guidance from a mystical Pegasus, and carry out his destiny as the savior to a mysterious red-haired girl. But we never truly understand why any of this is happening. Not that it gets particularly confusing; on a plot level, it's all quite simple. But that's the problem — it shouldn't be.
The central conceit of the film is that everyone is put on this Earth with a divine "mission" to uphold. Farrell's gives us the narrative of Winter's Tale, introducing the various rules and officers of the supernatural regime along the way. Abandoned as a baby and brought up under the criminal regime of a Manhattanite from Hell (Crowe), Farrell ascends from orphan to petty thief to horse whispering renegade to whimsical lover of a dying Jessica Brown Findlay to ageless messiah... all without much clarity on the nature of the story (or stories) he's occupying, save for two ham-fisted scenes of exposition — one with Graham Greene (not the dead author) and one with Jennifer Connelly, who shows up halfway through the movie for some reason.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
The world that Farrell is woven into has so many bright spots: we're on board for miracle quests, a magic-laden New York City, flying horses, and one of the biggest stars in Hollywood giving a cameo as the epitome of evil. Everything we see is fun, but it all flutters away as quickly as it arrives. We don't want quick bites of the way angels and demons do business with one another on the streets of Manhattan, we want the whole meal. A more thorough exploration of Helprin's world wouldn't just be doubly as interesting as the thin alternative we're offered in Goldsman's adaptation, it'd also fill in all the comprehensive gaps in Farrell's emotional throughline
We don't really understand so much of what happens to Farrell. Even when we're offered tangible explanations, we have no reason to understand why the Winter's Tale world works in such a way that Farrell might survive a 300-foot fall, develop amnesia, or sustain youth for a full century. What's more, we don't understand why Farrell's tale as a cog in this mystical machine is any more important than anyone else's. Or, if it's not, and we're simply asked to watch him carry out his quest as a glimpse into the vast, enigmatic system that Winter's Tale is ostensibly founded upon, we ... we don't understand enough of that world itself.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
We're never invited close enough to any of the movie's attractive features for them to matter. So even when the movie does offer entertaining bits — in its fantastical elements, its detail of New Yorks old and new, or Farrell's admittedly charming romance with Findlay — we're not engaged enough to really connect with any of them.
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Still, the flying horse is pretty cool.
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Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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Despite the infusion of millions of Canadian tax dollars into
domestically produced programs, independent television networks in the
country are increasing their spending on U.S. shows and reducing it on
Canadian ones, according to a study by Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.
"The amount of public money has doubled, yet the private networks are
spending less," Ian Morrison, spokesperson for the Friends of Canadian
Broadcasting, told the Toronto Star.
Responding to the study,
Michael McCabe, president of the Canadian association of Broadcasters,
told the Star: "There are those who refuse to abandon the old
stereotype, the one that says private broadcasters would rather walk
over broken glass than invest in Canadian content."
Warner Bros. "The Whole Nine Yards" easily held on to first place despite tracking studies that had projected Dimension Films' opening of "Reindeer Games" would be the weekend's big winner.
"Reindeer Games " Although the tracking data had pointed to an opening of $10 million to $12 million for "Reindeer," no film managed to crack double digits last weekend. "Reindeer" wound up an embarrassed No. 3 for the weekend with a red face and nose. The weekend's only other wide opening, Paramount's "Wonder Boys," lived up to tracking expectations, finishing out of the Top Five, in seventh place, with a grim estimated $5.85 million.
The best-performing film of the bunch continued to be "Yards," Morgan Creek and Franchise Pictures' R-rated comedy. "Yards" continued laughing atop the chart in its second weekend with an estimated $9.61 million (-30%) at 2,910 theaters (theater count unchanged, $3,301 per theater). Its total is approximately $28.5 million.
(All of today's estimates are for the three-day weekend. Percentage comparisons are against the Friday through Sunday portion of the previous four-day Presidents Day weekend.)
Directed by Jonathan Lynn, "Yards" stars Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry.
"Well, there's no contest this weekend," Warner Bros. Distribution President Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "It's probably one of the best-holding films of all time after Presidents Weekend. I've been tracking these dates, and usually they drop 37-43%. But we have a movie on which the word of mouth is just terrific."
"The Whole Nine Yards" Fellman applauds director Lynn and Franchise Pictures' head Elie Samaha, who executive produced the film with Andrew Stevens, for delivering a movie that audiences are clearly enjoying.
"The screenings we had -- from our sneak previews all the way through opening weekend -- continued to get stronger (in terms of exit poll scores)," Fellman said. "We seem to be getting younger (moviegoers), so the movie's moving into a broader audience, which is wonderful."
Where is it heading? "You're talking north of $50 million," said Fellman. "Each week now depends on how well we hold. After this week is over, we'll end up with $31-32 million. If we take a 35% drop next week, that will still give us another $8 million and bring us to $40 million. Whether it's $50 million or $60 million (remains to be seen), but it's north of $50 million."
Focusing on Franchise Pictures, Fellman said, "Coming out with your first movie at No. 1, and the second week having it No. 1 again, (is a fabulous way to start out)."
Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies' PG-rated comedy "Snow Day" rose one peg to second place in its third weekend with a still-hot estimated $8.50 million (-26%) at 2,709 theaters (+7 theaters, $3,138 per theater). Its total is approximately $43.3 million.
Directed by Chris Koch, it stars Chevy Chase.
"I think it will make $60 million-plus," Paramount Distribution President Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "I did a high-low projection earlier in the week, and we had it at $50 million on the low side and $63 million on the high side. Certainly, this is a better hold than we expected. I think it'll be in the low $60 millions."
Why is it performing so well?
"You can't really say, 'There's nothing else out there for the kids,' because there is 'The Tigger Movie,'" said Lewellen. "But I think that's so much younger (in its appeal). Certainly, ('Snow') is satisfying the (family) audience it's intended for.
"I think Chevy Chase brought more to the table here than they realized. Parents are going because they think there may be something there for them, too (with Chase starring). He's funny and he's been funny in the past, so they think, 'Well, I'll go to that one (with my kids because I'll probably enjoy it myself).'"
"Snow's" production cost reportedly was only about $15 million, which should make it nicely profitable.
Dimension Films' launch of its R-rated thriller "Reindeer Games" finished third, looking far less lively than industry tracking studies had suggested it would. Hollywood insiders had said "Reindeer" was the only film likely to do double-digit business this weekend.
"Reindeer" wound up with a calm estimated $8 million at 2,204 theaters ($3,629 per theater).
Directed by John Frankenheimer, it stars Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise, and Charlize Theron.
"Kind of a downbeat weekend," was how one competing distribution executive summed things up Sunday morning. "Right now, 'The Whole Nine Yards' is overperforming the tracking, clearly, and there's no question 'Reindeer Games' underperformed."
Distributors make a point of saying about tracking, as one did in our projection report for the weekend, "If you're looking for science, there isn't any. That's why nobody can make (accurate) predictions." While tracking data is often reliable, there are times when moviegoers simply do something different from what they said they were going to do.
Columbia's PG-13-rated comedy "Hanging Up" saw moviegoers start to disconnect with it in its second weekend, sliding two rungs to fourth place with a less talkative estimated $7.50 million (-45%) at 2,618 theaters (theater count unchanged, $2,865 per theater). Its total is approximately $26.1 million.
Directed by Diane Keaton, it stars Meg Ryan, Keaton, Lisa Kudrow, and Walter Matthau.
"I think it'll pretty predictably make in the mid-$40s to $50 million range and end up making us a profit," said Sony Pictures Releasing President Jeff Blake Sunday morning.
USA Films' R-rated sci-fi thriller "Pitch Black" dropped one orbit to fifth place in its second weekend with an OK estimated $7.05 million (-39%) at 1,930 theaters (+98 theaters, $3,654 per theater). Its total is approximately $22.8 million.
Directed by David Twohy, it stars Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, and Keith David.
Disney's G-rated "The Tigger Movie" took a one-peg skid to sixth place in its third weekend, still holding well with an estimated $6.30 million (-21%) at 2,818 theaters (+63 theaters, $2,236 per theater). Its total is approximately $30.6 million.
The film is the animated adventures of the eponymous "Winnie the Pooh" character and his cast of animal friends.
Paramount's R-rated comedy drama "Wonder Boys" lived up to its mediocre tracking scores, opening in seventh place to a less than wonderful estimated $5.85 million at 1,253 theatres ($4,669 per theater).
However, its per-theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide release over the weekend.
Directed by Curtis Hanson, "Boys" stars Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand, Katie Holmes, Rip Torn and Robert Downey Jr.
"A lot of critics have mentioned that his (Douglas') performance is very good and, in fact, I think it is," said Paramount's Lewellen on Sunday morning. "We opened (Wednesday) in New York, L.A. and Chicago. Obviously, with a film like this, you have to depend on good reviews. We got that, for the most part, with the exception of The New York Times. Virtually everywhere else in the country, (we got) good to rave reviews.
"This is one of those (films) that can hang around a while if word of mouth is good on the picture."
With that in mind, Lewellen said, Paramount is committed to going wider with "Wonder Boys" next weekend.
"We're bringing in another 250 runs next week in smaller markets," he said. "Hopefully, it will give an opportunity for the reviews and good word of mouth to get out there and into the smaller markets."
"Boys" five-day total is $5.9 million.
Dimension Films' R-rated thriller "Scream 3" continued slipping in its fourth weekend, down two pegs to eighth place with a less scary estimated $5 million at 3,099 theaters (-269 theaters, $1,613 per theater). Its total is approximately $78.1 million.
Directed by Wes Craven, "Scream 3" stars David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox Arquette, and Parker Posey.
DreamWorks' R-rated drama "American Beauty," a major Oscar contender with eight nominations, including Best Picture, held on to ninth place in its 24th week with a still promising estimated $4.73 million (-15%) at 1,323 theatres (+36 theaters, $3,578 per theater). Its total is approximately $87.7 million.
Directed by Sam Mendes, it stars Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening.
"It's down 15%, (which is) fantastic," DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning.
What effect has the film's awards success had?
"Well, it's had to be extremely positive," said Tharp. "Probably, the Golden Globes awards as well as the (Oscar) nominations contributed to that (Academy run) opening last week, which was $5.6 million for the three days. I think right now the movie's playing like it did when it was first-run.
"It continues to hold very, very well. It's a combination of people that have never seen the movie and, then, people seeing it again."
Rounding out the Top 10 was Miramax's PG-13-rated drama "The Cider House Rules," also a top contender for Oscars with seven nominations, including Best Picture. "Cider" expanded in its 12th week, pulling in an OK estimated $4.10 million at 1,346 theaters (+489 theaters, $3,046 per theater). Its total is approximately $32 million.
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, it stars Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo, Erykah Badu, Paul Rudd and Michael Caine.
Last weekend saw the arrival of Fox Searchlight Pictures' PG-13-rated dramatic comedy "The Closer You Get," placing 30th with a quiet estimated $0.045 million at 10 theaters ($4,500 per theater).
Directed by Aileen Ritchie, it stars Ian Hart, Sean McGinley, Niamh Cusack and Ruth McCabe.
Last weekend saw Columbia hold 800 sneak previews of its comedy "What Planet Are You From?".
Directed by Mike Nichols, it stars Garry Shandling, Annette Bening, Greg Kinnear, Ben Kingsley, Linda Fiorentino and John Goodman.
"They were generally well-attended, particularly in big cities," Sony Pictures' Blake said Sunday morning. "They were less well-attended in the smaller cities in the South and the Midwest. Overall, the reaction was very good. Clearly, it's a picture I think people are going to find out about and tell their friends. It opens Friday (March 3) in about 2,200 runs."
On the expansion front, last weekend saw Buena Vista/Touchstone expand its R-rated drama "The Insider," a top contender for Oscars with seven nominations, including Best Picture, in its 17th week, placing 21st with a dull estimated $0.49 million at 651 theaters (+519 theaters, $753 per theater). Its total is approximately $27.5 million.
Directed by Michael Mann, it stars Russell Crowe, Al Pacino and Christopher Plummer.
USA Films' reissue of the PG-rated suspense drama "Rear Window" widened in its sixth week, placing 26th with an OK estimated $0.13 million at 22 theaters (+4 theaters, $5,955 per theater). Its total is approximately $0.9 million.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it stars James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Robert Harris and James Katz restored the 1954 film classic.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend - took in approximately $83.21 million, up about 13.50% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $73.31 million.
This weekend's key film gross cannot be compared with this year's previous weekend, the four-day Presidents Day holiday weekend.
Last year, Sony's opening week of "8MM" was first with $14.25 million at 2,370 theaters ($6,014 per theater) and Paramount's fourth week of "Payback" was second with $6.79 million at 2,852 theaters ($2,380 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $21.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $18.1 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES
Based on business by key films, last weekend's top six distributors were the following: Miramax (Miramax, Dimension) was first with three films ("Reindeer Games," "Scream 3" and "The Cider House Rules") grossing an estimated $17.10 million or 20.6% of the market.
Paramount was second with two films ("Snow Day" and "Wonder Boys") grossing an estimated $14.35 million or 17.2% of the market.
Warner Bros. was third with two films ("The Green Mile" and "The Whole Nine Yards") grossing an estimated $11.64 million or 14% of the market.
Buena Vista (Touchstone and Disney) was fourth with four films ("The Tigger Movie," "Toy Story 2," "The Sixth Sense" and "Fantasia 2000") grossing an estimated $10 million or 12% of the market.
Sony Pictures Entertainment (Columbia, TriStar) was fifth with two films ("Hanging Up" and "Stuart Little") grossing an estimated $8.55 million or 10.3% of the market.
USA Films was sixth with one film ("Pitch Black") grossing an estimated $7.05 million or 8.5% of the market.
(11) "The Beach"/Fox Theaters: 2,517 (-70) Gross: $3.50 million (-51%) Average per theater: $1,391 Total: $33.9 million
(12) "Boiler Room"/New Line Theaters: 1,335 (0) Gross: $3.10 million (-46%) Average per theater: $2,322 Total: $11.1 million
(13) "The Green Mile"/Castle Rock/Warner Bros. Theaters: 1,746 (-356) Gross: $2.03 million (-29%) Average per theater: $1,167 Total: $131.2 million
(14) "The Sixth Sense"/BV/Touchstone Theaters: 992 (+98) Gross: $1.60 million (-19%) (tie) Average per theater: $1,568 Total: $284 million
(14) "Fantasia 2000"/BV/Disney Theaters: 54 (0) (all IMAX) Gross: $1.60 million (worldwide) (-32%) (tie) Average per theater: $29,153 Total: $34.5 million (worldwide)
(16) "The Hurricane"/Universal Theaters: 1,346 (-365) Gross: $1.31 million (-45%) Average per theater: $970 Total: $48.2 million
(17) "Next Friday"/New Line Theaters: 1,038 (-171) Gross: $1.13 million (-38%) Average per theater: $1,084 Total: $54.1 million
(18) "Stuart Little"/Columbia Theaters: 1,300 (-414) Gross: $1.05 million (-33%) Average per theater: $808 Total: $136.2 million
(19) "Galaxy Quest"/DreamWorks Theaters: 817 (-369) Gross: $0.75 million (-39%) Average per theater: $920 Total: $69.0 million
(20) "Toy Story 2"/BV/Disney Theaters: 581 (-183) Gross: $0.50 million (-48%) Average per theater: $863 Total: $240.6 million
(21) "The Insider"/BV/Touchstone (see EXPANSIONS above)
(22) "The Talented Mr. Ripley"/Paramount/Miramax Theaters: 626 (-519) Gross: $0.37 million (-56%) Average per theater: $694 Total: $80 million
(23) "Angela's Ashes"/Paramount Theaters: 584 (-30) Gross: $0.36 million (-42%) Average per theater: $616 Total: $11.9 million
(24) "Being John Malkovich"/USA Films Theaters: 134 (-31) Gross: $0.13 million (-34%) Average per theater: $995 Total: $22 million
(25) "Snow Falling on Cedars"/Universal Theaters: 299 (+11) Gross: $0.13 million (-17%) Average per theater: $440 Total: $14.1 million
(26) "Rear Window"/USA (see EXPANSIONS above)
(27) "End of Days"/Universal Theaters: 197 (-43) Gross: $0.10 million (-36%) Average per theater: $460 Total: $66.7 million (28) "The Bone Collector"/Universal: Theaters: 217
(-28) Gross: $0.10 million (-36%) Average per theater: $415 Total: $66.4 million
(29) "My Dog Skip"/Warner Bros. Theaters: 21 (-4) Gross: $0.056 million (-15%) Average per theater: $2,660 Total: $0.7 million
(30) "The Closer You Get"/Fox Searchlight: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)