Twilight’s contentious “Edward vs. Jacob” debate was finally settled at the close of 2009‘s New Moon the second episode of Stephenie Meyers’ supernatural teen harlequin saga when plaintive emo hottie Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) definitively rejected the advances of Taylor Lautner’s musclebound man-wolf in favor of Robert Pattinson’s brooding vampire.
Or so we thought. Twilight’s fateful love triangle is revived in earnest by Eclipse part three of the series and this time the implications are serious -- relatively speaking of course. Taking over the helm from New Moon director Chris Weitz is David Slade (30 Days of Night Hard Candy) who adds a hefty dose of action to Twilight’s trademark mix of soaring romance and manic melodrama making Eclipse the first film in the saga in which -- get this -- something actually happens.
Indeed action is a primary theme of Eclipse. Like most high school seniors Bella wants some; her pasty paramour Edward Cullen however remains stubbornly chaste and not just because the briefest exposure to his unbridled vampire lust would almost certainly kill his all-too-human sweetheart. You see chivalrous Edward hails “from a different era ” one in which the institution of marriage meant everything and a man took care to mount a proper courtship before marrying a girl nearly a century his junior. (He’s 109 years old.) He asks her to marry him; she agrees but only if he’ll turn her into a vampire first; he hesitates pondering the unalterable consequences; the matter is tabled and heavy petting resumes. (This exchange is repeated ad nauseam throughout the remainder of the film.)
The constant fawning and unwavering devotion from impossibly beautiful Edward aren’t enough to sate Bella’s thirst -- she needs validation like a vampire needs blood -- and so she uses the flimsiest of pretexts to re-insert herself into the life of Jacob Black the sensitive werewolf she previously shunned who dutifully plies her with his own declarations of undying love. (Jacob to his credit has developed enough game since we last saw him to qualify as a serious contender for Bella’s affections and is no longer the devoted doormat we saw in New Moon. He’s still a tool though.) Game on.
But Edward and Jacob aren’t the only ones with designs on Bella. (Seriously are there no other hot emo chicks in the greater Pacific Northwest?) A ginger-haired menace (Bryce Dallas Howard) has emerged one that will require Edward’s vampire clan and Jacob’s wolfpack tribe longtime enemies forever on the verge of a climactic battle (in which Bella will serve as the jeans-and-hoodie-clad Helen of Troy no doubt) to put aside their differences and unite against a common enemy. In order to ensure Bella’s safety Edward and Jacob must form an uneasy tag-team (no not that kind of tag team much as it would likely better serve to resolve matters) to keep Bella safe from harm.
With its amped-up action sharpened wit and darker horror flick-inspired atmospherics Eclipse boasts the broadest appeal of all the Twilight films thus far. But that doesn’t mean it’s good. Director Slade’s grasp of plot development borders on amateurish in this film; Eclipse often feels less like a movie than a weighty discourse on the pros and cons of vampiredom laid out in lengthy exhaustingly repetitive chunks of exposition and awkward campy flashbacks as just about every character in the film including Edward attempts to dissuade Bella from joining the ranks of the bloodsuckers.
But alas no force no matter how utterly rational its arguments will keep Bella from her destiny. Which obviously is Edward. Or is it? Eclipse goes to great pains to invent ways to perpetuate the film’s romantic rivalry inserting scenes like the one in which Bella on the verge of freezing to death in a tent high up in the mountains is saved when Jacob arrives to heroically spoon her body temperature back to its proper level. (Eclipse is being hyped as the first “guy-friendly” Twilight flick but no film which includes a climactic spooning scene can rightly claim such a distinction.) Edward meanwhile with his poor vampire circulation is powerless to help.
Who will win in the end? Will it be abs over eyes? Obviously it will take two more movies (at least!) to solve this kind of wrenching dilemma.
Attempting to delve into one of Tinseltown’s most curious scandals--the mysterious suicide (or was it?) of the original TV Superman actor George Reeves--the story begins after Reeves (Ben Affleck) is found dead of a seemingly self-inflicted gunshot wound during a late night party in his Benedict Canyon home. The case then unfolds through the eyes of Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) a street-smart publicity hungry private dick hired by Reeves’ grieving mother. As Simo slowly peels back the layers of Reeves’ seemingly glamorous life he discovers an actor of charm talent and sophistication whose every opportunity for a big break fizzled forcing him to lead a frustrated existence slumming in the superhero show he deemed beneath him. Gradually identifying with Reeves’ failed expectations for himself Simo discovers a host of candidates who may have actually pulled the trigger on the actor including his young party girl paramour (Robin Tunney) his longtime lover and patron (Diane Lane) and his lover’s husband a powerfully connected studio “fixer” (Bob Hoskins). It is Brody not Affleck who carries the bulk of the film on his shoulders and the Oscar winner delivers a finely etched turn as Simo who’s fractured potential mirrors Reeves’ but quite simply Simo’s story isn’t nearly as dark or engaging as Reeves’ life or the mystery surrounding his death. Affleck an actor who has had his share of ups downs duds and disappointments in Hollywood delivers one of his most charming and fully realized performances to date even if his spot-on recreation of Reeves’ speech pattern is a bit distracting. The luminous Lane’s acting talents remain in full blossom in a character she’s well-suited to play—the aging beauty fearing the road ahead—and she commands every scene she’s in. Unfortunately there should have been many many more of them. She’s almost criminally underused. Hoskins more menacing then ever and the reliable stable of supporting players like Joe Spano are all top-notch as well; only Tunney apparently trying to channel both Betty Boop and Bette Davis simultaneously seems a bit off her game as the wannabe femme fatale. Best known for his strong turns helming many of the best episodes of television series such as The Sopranos Sex and the City and Six Feet Under first time feature director Allen Coulter’s cool assured hand and meticulous recreation of Cold War Los Angeles are major bonuses here. Even when Simo’s story sags in comparison to Reeves’ Coulter keeps us interested particularly when staging the Rashomon-like sequences depicting the various theories behind Reeves’ demise. But by skimping on Reeves’ story in favor of a less compelling fictional framework built around a private detective investigating the case we never see one key suspect’s possible murder scenario enacted visually and it comes off as a glaring omission.
All hail the conquering "Clones."
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones isn't likely to smash Spider-Man's record-busting $114.8 million opening, but the fifth in George Lucas' sci-fi saga should eclipse the $431 million earned in 1999 by Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.
Although eagerly anticipated, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace endured harsh criticism for its plodding pacing and the introduction of perceived racial stereotype Jar Jar Binks. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones' stronger reviews should enable it to enjoy a longer and healthier run than its immediate predecessor.
But that won't help Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones challenge Spider-Man's amazing debut. Spider-Man opened at 3,615 theaters, representing 7,500-plus screens. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones will debut Thursday in 3,100 theaters, representing 6,000-plus screens. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones could, however, match Spider-Man's debut in its first four days.
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace made $28.5 million on its first day--a record at the time--but its weekend gross of $64.8 failed to beat The Lost World: Jurassic Park's $72.1 million. Still, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace went on to become only the second film to break $400 during its initial run, the other being Titanic. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace now ranks as the fourth highest-grossing film domestically.
No other blockbuster-to-be dares to cross the path of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones until the June 14 arrival of Scooby-Doo. Yet Anakin Skywalker does face somewhat of a threat from the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in the bid to earn the biggest gross of the year.
Spider-Man broke the $200 million mark in a record nine days. Such a feat took 13 days for both Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The web-slinger also will easily amass $300 million in less than the record 28 days that it took Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Spider-Man experienced a mere 38 percent drop in business in its second weekend, earning a stunning $71.4 million. That stands as the best second-weekend and the fourth best-weekend hauls.
Even with the arrival of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, Spider-Man could conceivably make another $35 million this weekend.
With $228.2 million through Monday, Spider-Man looks set to swing his way to $400 million.
Hugh Grant isn't afraid to go one on one with the Empire.
In 1999, Grant's Notting Hill proved the perfect alternate to those who found nothing amorous about Anakin Skywalker's introduction to the Force. Notting Hill, which opened two weeks after Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, took in $116 million.
Of course, Grant had some help from Julia Roberts.
The fate of About a Boy rests solely on Grant's shoulders. His co-stars include veterans of several blockbusters, Rachel Weisz (The Mummy series) and Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense), but neither were the key draw. Also, Universal Pictures is not selling About a Boy as the latest offering from American Pie chefs Chris & Paul Weitz. A wise move, considering About a Boy is a mature romantic comedy, whereas American Pie reveled in its anything-goes brand of juvenile antics.
About a Boy isn't likely to duplicate the success of Notting Hill, which opened with $21.8 million and eventually became Grant's biggest U.S. hit to date. This adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel will debut in a modest 1,100 theaters in advance of a Memorial Day holiday weekend expansion. So Grant should brace himself for $8 million to $10 million. If audiences fall head over heels in love with Grant's roguish and self-absorbed bachelor-as British audiences already have--then About a Boy should match the $52.7 million earned in 1994 by Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Grant can take heart from the performance of Richard Gere's Unfaithful, which opened last weekend to a sturdy $14.1 million and has $15.5 million through Monday. That gives Gere--who's been in a slump in recent years--his best opening since 1999's Runaway Bride ($35 million). There's the Julia Roberts factor in play once again.
Unfaithful also almost doubled the $7.8 million that Intersection, another extramarital cautionary tale starring Gere and based on a French film, opened with in 1994 before crashing to a halt with $20.6 million.
Director Adrian Lyne can't expect his sexually charged drama, a remake of the 1968 French film La Femme Infidele, to repeat the great success of his Fatal Attraction ($156.6 million) or Indecent Proposal ($106.6 million). The equally glossy Unfaithful should tumble to about $8 million in its second weekend, then vanish when confronted May 24 by Enough and Insomnia. Still, Lyne should be happy for a $40 million total after the disaster that was his controversial 1998 remake of Lolita ($1.1 million total).
The New Guy in high school also got off to a better-than-expected start, considering that this DJ Qualls farce sat on the shelf for one year.
Not that The New Guy's $9 million represents a comeback of sorts for the boorish teen comedy, which has fallen out of favor in recent years because of such pitiful endeavors as Freddy Got Fingered, Slackers, Sorority Boys and Tomcats.
The New Guy should do a little better than National Lampoon's Van Wilder, which opened in April with $7 million and has collected a mere $21 million through Sunday. Budgeted at $13 million, The New Guy has $9.5 million through Monday. It will turn a modest profit but won't likely spawn a sequel a la American Pie.
Unfaithful and The New Guy put up much more of a fight against Spider-Man than Deuces Wild and Hollywood Ending did the previous weekend.
Deuces Wild fell out of the Top 10 in its second weekend. It slid 54 percent from $2.7 million to $1.2 million. The 1950s gang rumble was delayed following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Judging by its puny $5 million total through Monday, Deuces Wild hardly benefited from its eight-month delay.
Despite being Woody Allen's most accessible comedy in years, Hollywood Ending collapsed by 46 percent in its second weekend, from $2 million to $1 million.
Hollywood Ending has $3.6 million through Sunday, which is poor even by Allen's lowly standards. Last year's The Curse of the Jade Scorpion slowed by 35 percent in its second weekend, from $2.4 to $1.5 million. The screwball comedy ended with a disappointing $7.4 million total. Hollywood Ending doesn't have the staying power to match that.
DreamWorks, which also distributed The Curse of the Jade Scorpion and 2000's Small Time Crooks, clearly picked the wrong time to unveil Hollywood Ending. Allen's good-natured ribbing of the movie industry won't capitalize now on being selected to open this year's Cannes Film Festival, as it would have done later this summer. Competing against Spider-Man is also no job for Allen.
With the summer movie season now underway, many of the April holdovers are enjoying one last spring fling. Ice Age ($171 million through Sunday), Panic Room ($93.2 million through Monday), The Scorpion King ($81.3 million through Monday), The Rookie ($68.3 million through Monday) and Changing Lanes ($57.6 million through Monday) are close to the end of their profitable runs.
The same cannot be said for a handful of popular art house offerings. Y Tu Mama Tambien romanced a strong $615,059 in its ninth week for a torrid $9.3 million total through Sunday. The Cat's Meow purred its way to a five-week total of $1.8 million on Sunday after a $335,681 weekend.
Monsoon Weddingearned $543,361 in its 12th week for a total $9.7 million through Sunday. My Big Fat Greek Wedding received a $1.2 million gift after expanding from 147 theaters to 247 theaters in its fourth weekend, bringing its total to $4.1 million through Sunday.
Love is definitely in the air.
Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) is a young high-powered Wall Street attorney working for his father-in-law's firm. On Good Friday Banek is on FDR Drive on his way to court for a probate case involving a multimillion-dollar trust when he gets distracted on his cell phone. One lane over is Doyle Gibson (Samuel L. Jackson) an insurance company representative and recovering alcoholic. His wife has divorced him and is planning on leaving New York with their two boys for a job in Portland Ore. unless he can convince a family court judge otherwise. He's practicing his speech on his way to court and while switching lanes doesn't notice Banek's silver Mercedes crossing over. The two cars sideswipe each other. Banek is too impatient to trade insurance information and peels off in his car with a cocky "Better luck next time." What he doesn't realize is that he has left a crucial file in the hands of Gibson who is left standing on a median next to his broken car in a downpour. When Banek's attempt to get the file back fails the two men engage in a bitter war of revenge.
Ben Affleck (Pearl Harbor) plays lawyer Gavin Banek a man quickly disillusioned not only by his profession but to a certain extent life. Banek is a complex character: Underneath the arrogance he displays at the start of the film is a nice guy who grapples with issues like everyone else. With every devious move is a bout of guilt and Affleck does a great job reflecting that in his character. Samuel L. Jackson (The Caveman's Valentine) is equally impressive as Doyle Gibson a recovered alcoholic trying to win back his family. Jackson plays Gibson's character with such earnestness you may find yourself taking his side. Both Affleck and Jackson handle their characters' duality delicately and convincingly. The supporting cast members also deliver superior performances especially Toni Collette (Shaft) who plays Banek's co-worker mistress--and ironically--his moral compass and Sydney Pollack (Random Hearts) his corrupt father-in-law and boss. Also look for good performances from William Hurt (A.I.: Artificial Intelligence) and Amanda Peet (Saving Silverman).
In his screenwriting debut Chap Taylor delivers a blunt and hauntingly realistic portrait of what happens when two decent guys are suddenly backed into corners. The story's intensity mounts almost inconspicuously as the two men carry on their hostilities swapping offensive and defensive positions as they try to destroy each other. This aspect of the film not only makes the characters more relatable but it also builds suspense. Each time one of them is ready to end the petty quarrel he receives a blow from the other which in turn makes them both more vengeful. Because the film takes place in one day director Roger Michell (Notting Hill) takes advantage of the time element in the film--a crucial component. With each threat for example is an or else: "It will take me half an hour to get to my bank " Gibson tells Banek when the cards are in his favor. "If my credit's not on by the time I get there I'll destroy the file." Changing Lanes effectively portrays characters that are not all bad and not all good--something many recent films have attempted to do unsuccessfully.