The undead come out to play this weekend as the sickly sweet ghost story Dragonfly and the goth-rock vampire tale Queen of the Damned try to banish John Q to box office purgatory.
With a string of expensive flops to his name, Kevin Costner turns to Liar Liar and The Nutty Professor director Tom Shadyac to revive his flagging fortunes. Unfortunately, Dragonfly isn't one of Shadyac's patented gross-out comedies but a silly, sentimental and serious-minded The Sixth Sense rip-off that won't allow Costner to regain the popularity that he enjoyed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He last tasted success with 1999's syrupy Message in a Bottle ($52.8 million) and has since endured the flops For Love of the Game ($35.1 million), Thirteen Days ($34.5 million) and 3,000 Miles to Graceland ($15.7 million).
As in The Sixth Sense, kids somehow see dead people. The dead person in question is Costner's recently deceased wife, a saintly doctor whose body was never recovered following a fatal bus accident in Venezuela. The kids claim they have a message for Costner from his wife. Too bad she's not telling him to find a new agent. Hard to believe, but Dragonfly manages to be even more disgustingly maudlin and vacuously uplifting than Shadyac's first stab at inspirational drama, Patch Adams.
Wrestling with ghosts proved successful for Bruce Willis and Nicole Kidman, but the preposterous and less-than-spooky Dragonfly won't resonate with audiences in the same manner as The Sixth Sense or The Others. Instead, Dragonfly will match the $11.2 million opening enjoyed in January by The Mothman Prophecies. Richard Gere's equally muddled foray into the unknown at least ended with a genuinely creepy note, no doubt helping The Mothman Prophecies to earn an OK $32.4 million through Monday. Dragonfly's preposterous ending might kill its chances of even cracking $30 million.
Dragonfly looks set to spoil Shadyac's perfect track record as a director. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Shadyac's directorial debut, turned Jim Carrey into a household name after it sleuthed its way to $72.2 million in 1994. Shadyac's The Nutty Professor remake, which revived Eddie Murphy's career, marked the first of three consecutive $100 million hits that continued with Liar Liar and Patch Adams. Shadyac might consider a well-advised return to comedy if Dragonfly indeed fails to take flight.
If audiences crave blood, they should turn to Queen of the Damned.
Rumors started to spread last year that Warner Bros. would send its Interview with the Vampire sequel straight to video in the wake of lousy word of mouth. Instead, Queen of the Damned arrives in theaters Friday with Warner Bros. in the unenviable position of marketing this adaptation of Anne Rice's novel without exploiting the tragic death of its star, Aaliyah.
Miramax's genre label Dimension faced the same problem in 1994 when it released The Crow one year after the accidental on-set death of star Brandon Lee. Dimension's subtle marketing campaign resulted in a $55 million smash.
Aaliyah completed filming the role of the Egyptian vampire Akasha months before the August airplane crash in the Bahamas that killed her. She had already made a successful acting debut in the Shakespearean-inspired martial arts thriller Romeo Must Die ($55.9 million), and had been cast in The Matrix sequels, The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.
Queen of the Damned isn't likely to match the $36.3 million that Interview with the Vampire sucked out of audiences during its opening weekend in November 1996. Tom Cruise, as the Vampire Lestat, led the pretty-boy cast of Interview with the Vampire that included Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas and Christian Slater. This sequel--based on the third book in the Rice-penned series--instead features the relatively unknown Irish actor Stuart Townsend as Lestat, now a rock star whose music awakens Queen Akasha from a 6,000-year slumber. (Wes Bentley and Josh Hartnett were both reportedly approached to star as Lestat, but both declined to take on the daunting challenge of replacing Cruise.)
The combination of the literary series' hardcore followers, Aaliyah's faithful fans and the curiosity surrounding her final film should result in a $13 million opening and a $35 million total, about one-third of the $105.6 million that Interview with the Vampire settled for after a fast fade.
Queen of the Damned still might not be able to claim sovereignty over the box office.
Denzel Washington's John Q set a President's Day record opening with its four-day tally of $23.6 million, beating previous holder The Wedding Singer's $21.9 million. Its three-day gross was $20.2 million, representing Washington's second-best opening behind the $22.5 million earned in October by Training Day.
Unlike critics, audiences responded enthusiastically to a film that seemingly endorses terrorism as a means of cutting through bureaucratic red tape. Washington plays a father who takes hostage a Chicago emergency room in order to secure a heart transplant for his dying son.
Training Day took $13.3 million in its second weekend, a tally that John Q can easily equal. If so, John Q will likely end up with a total close to Training Day's $76.2 million. It has $25.1 million through Tuesday.
Women are "slaves" 4 Britney Spears. The pop siren's film debut Crossroads opened with a sturdy $17 million during the four-day holiday, with 84 percent of the comedy's audience comprised of young women. Crossroads' three-day take was $14.5 million, or $2.4 million better than the $12.1 million taken in its opening weekend in January by fellow singer Mandy Moore's A Walk to Remember. Crossroad' $2.4 million Monday take equals the three-day opening for Mariah Carey's disastrous Glitter, which ended up with just $4.2 million.
Unlike A Walk to Remember, Crossroads did not endure a drastic drop in business during the week because of fans having to observe school-related curfews. It made a strong $814,000 on Tuesday, for a total of $17.8 million.
Spears' grand entrance resulted in A Walk to Remember dropping an expected 42 percent in its fourth weekend. Still, A Walk to Remember enjoyed three strong weekends, and has $35.9 million through Monday, on the strength on its rather chaste content. If word spreads this weekend that Crossroads is substantially racier, Spears might have to make do with matching A Walk to Remember's second weekend of $8.8 million. Regardless, Spears looks set to sing her way to a total $40 million.
Families couldn't resist a Return to Never Land. Once planned as a direct-to-video project, the Peter Pan sequel flew away with an excellent $15.6 million four-day opening. That's better than the $13.4 million that Disney's animated Recess: School's Out made during last year's President's Day holiday weekend.
Tinkerbell used her magic Monday. With children out from school, Return to Never Land earned $3.7 million, beating John Q's $3.3 million. Return to Never Land should continue to play well with families--competition does not arrive until The Time Machine starts ticking March 8--and earn a total $50 million. It has $16.5 million through Tuesday.
Return to Never Land did not cause significant harm to fellow Disney comedy Snow Dogs, which dropped just 28 percent in its fifth week, from $7.1 million to $5.1 million ($6.7 million four-day total). The Cuba Gooding Jr. Alaska adventure has $68.1 million through Monday, justifying Disney's efforts to rush a sequel into production.
Big Fat Liar, with Frankie Muniz exacting revenge upon greedy Hollywood producer Paul Giamatti, continued to make young audiences laugh. The comedy eased a mere 25 percent in its second weekend, from $11.5 million to $8.7 million ($11.4 million four-day total). Telling lies clearly pays dividends, as Big Fat Liar has $25.6 million through Tuesday. A total $40 million looks possible.
Bruce Willis lost the last time he faced The Siege co-star Denzel Washington, when Bandits failed to unseat Training Day in October as the nation's No. 1 film. Willis lost again this weekend, as the World War II drama Hart's War earned a disheartening $8.9 million during the four-day weekend ($7.7 million Friday through Sunday). That represents Willis' worst opening since Last Man Standing debuted in 1996 with a weak $7 million, on its way to a total $18 million.
Hart's War, an unusual courtroom thriller set in a POW camp, doesn't have the romantic interludes that helped Pearl Harbor or Enemy at the Gates connect with audiences. Its opening does match that of last summer's World War II flop, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, which debuted with $7.2 million. Hart's War should claw its way to equaling the lackluster $25.5 million that Captain Corelli's Mandolin strummed up. It has $9.5 million through Tuesday.
The courtroom dynamics of Hart's War were obviously no match for the bloody gunplay of Black Hawk Down. Now in its fifth weekend in wide release, director Ridley Scott's Somalia-set war epic slid by just 22 percent--from $8 million to $6.2 million ($7.2 million four-day total)--in the wake of receiving four Oscar nominations. Black Hawk Down has $96.9 million through Tuesday, with it likely to cross $100 million by Saturday or Sunday. That would give Scott his third consecutive $100 million film, following Gladiator and Hannibal.
Collateral Damage, conversely, seems to be fading fast because of its unrealistic depiction of the war against terrorism. The thriller--delayed following the Sept. 11 attacks--pits firefighter Arnold Schwarzenegger against the terrorist who killed his family. Collateral Damage might seem timely, but under Andrew Davis' uninspired direction, it plays like a yawn-inducing throwback to Schwarzenegger's 1985 Commando. Collateral Damage plummeted 44 percent in its second weekend, from $15 million to $8.4 million ($9.6 million four-day total), and has a so-so $29.7 million through Tuesday. Collateral Damage should cruise past 2000's The 6th Day ($34.5 million) but will collapse well short of 1999's End of Days ($66.8 million).
No one wants to play Rollerball these days. Director John McTiernan's remake of the 1975 sci-fi thriller dropped a fatal 56 percent in its second weekend, from $9 million to $3.9 million ($4.6 four-day total). Its $15.5 million total through Monday bolsters the argument that this is a remake that no one wanted made.
Seems there is still some money to be made poking fun at the law post-Sept. 11. Fox Searchlight doubled the $3.25 million it spent to acquire the Super Troopers at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. A 21st-century Police Academy, the R-rated Super Troopers collared a $6.2 million debut at 1,780 theaters ($7.1 million four-day total). That's a little less than the $7 million that the PG-13 martial arts spoof Kung Pow: Enter the Fist made in January. Super Troopers, which has $7.6 million through Tuesday, could earn $20 million if it manages to disarm audiences with its hit-or-miss gags.
The arrival of five new releases during the President's Day weekend saw old favorite The Count of Monte Cristo tumble out of the Top 10. Director Kevin Reynolds adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' swashbuckling epic stole off with another $4.8 million ($5.7 million four-day total) and has $40.3 million through Monday, on its way to a possible $50 million.
The Oscar race is on, and A Beautiful Mind is the winner, at least at the box office. Ron Howard's inventive biography of mentally challenged mathematics genius John Forbes Nash Jr. jumped by a strong 28 percent--$6.3 million to $8 million ($9.4 million four-day total)--in its seventh week in wide release after receiving eight Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture. A Beautiful Mind has $126.3 million through Tuesday.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Gosford Park and In the Bedroom also benefited from receiving Best Picture nominations.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring jumped a precious 30 percent in its ninth weekend, from $3.6 million to $4.7 million ($5.7 million four-day total), for a total of $279.1 million through Tuesday.
In the Bedroom saw business increase by a whopping 56 percent, from $1.6 million to $2.6 million ($3 million four-day total), for a total of $23.2 million through Monday.
Gosford Park experienced a 24 percent increase in business, from $1.8 million to $2.3 million ($2.8 million four-day total), for a total of $25.7 million through Monday.
Even an acting nomination means big business. I Am Sam, starring surprise Best Actor nominee Sean Penn, eased by an acceptable 21 percent in its fourth weekend in wide weekend, from $4.6 million to $3.6 million ($4.3 million four-day total), for a total of $29.5 million through Monday.
Halle Berry's Best Actress nomination allowed Monster's Ball to enjoy a 17 percent increase, from $2.3 million to $2.7 million ($3.2 million four-day total), for a total of $8 million through Monday.
Three acting nominations for Iris--Best Actress Judi Dench, Best Supporting Actor Jim Broadbent and Best Supporting Actress Kate Winslet--resulted in the biography of the late novelist Iris Murdoch earning a $319,373 in its first weekend in 31 theaters ($390,091 four-day total) following a brief Oscar-qualifying run in December. Iris has made $583,296 through Monday.
Not in the running for Oscar gold can mean the death of a film. Take The Shipping News, for example. Lasse Hallstrom's dreary adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel dropped a terrible 63 percent after failing to secure any Oscar nominations and disappearing from half of its 215 theaters. The Shipping News might be bad news for co-star Dench, but at least she can take comfort in her nomination for Iris.
The vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (Stuart Townsend) wakes from a hundred-year sleep to the rock 'n' roll present day and likes what he sees and hears. Tired of the vampire's solitary life he becomes the frontman for an unknown rock band and transforms it into the latest greatest thing gaining the adulation of millions. He also decides to disregard the unspoken rule that vampires must hide away from the rest of world and writes songs encoded with specifics of the secret life of vampires. As expected Lestat's lyrics draw the attention of both the bloodsuckers who want to destroy him and the human vampire scholars (called the Talamasca) who want to study him. One young Talamascan student Jesse Reeves (Marguerite Moreau) becomes obsessed with Lestat after reading his journal from the 1800s. She learns that Lestat had a brief encounter with Queen Akasha (Aaliyah) the most ancient and dangerous vampire to ever exist and the mother of all who walk the Earth in search of blood. He gets his chance to meet Akasha again when his music awakens her from an ancient slumber. She rises and seeks out Lestat to become her king and join her in ruling the world.
The film truly belongs to Townsend and fans of the Anne Rice's novels will be happy to know he completely embodies the charismatic vampire Lestat. The little-known Irish actor who starred in last year's indie About Adam with Kate Hudson rules the screen whenever he is on it and luckily he's on it quite a lot. He's especially powerful when he is in rock star mode. Although Moreau's Jesse is fairly one dimensional she comes alive in her scenes with Townsend. Let's hope they keep asking him to play Lestat (when and if they make any more films from Rice's vampire novels) and next time give him an actress he can have some real chemistry with. The late R&B singer Aaliyah made her second film appearance in Damned as the queen. Even though she is only in the film a short time she possesses a certain charm as the ancient and evil Queen Akasha and makes a great first impression by destroying a vampire coven. Yet her acting skills are just not up to par with the rest of the cast including the charismatic Vincent Perez as the vampire Marius and Lena Olin as the kind-hearted vampire Maharet.
Damned was set to be released in the fall of last year but word of mouth had the film destined for the video shelf before it even made it to the big screen. Then tragedy struck and as the news of Aaliyah's untimely death echoed throughout the world of entertainment Warner Bros. wisely decided to hold onto it and release it in theaters at a more favorable time knowing there would be an audience who'd want to see the singer's last film. Yet for all the bad press surrounding it Damned actually pleasantly surprises you due largely in part to Townsend's mesmerizing performance. Michael Rymer's direction is not a masterpiece of filmmaking by any stretch of the imagination but it has a certain MTV quality about it which makes it appealing. That same quality however also makes it too slick glossing over the meatier parts of Rice's novel making the dialogue and action trite and sometimes downright silly. Come to think of it the 1994 Interview With the Vampire also suffered from the same thing. Maybe translating Rice's words is harder than it looks.
Ex-"Beverly Hills 90210" star Jason Priestley today was sentenced to five days in jail (well, a private "correctional institution"), dinged with nearly $600 in fines and ordered to complete an alcohol-treatment program, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said. This, after entering a no-contest plea to one count of misdemeanor drunken driving.
The 30-year-old actor was not personally in the Los Angeles courtroom. He's currently on the boards in London with the Tony-winning play "Side Man." When he returns to the States, he'll be hoofing it around town for a while. The court also suspended Priestley's license for a year. In fact, he's got two weeks to turn over the card to authorities.
According to Priestley's lawyer, Peter Knecht, other than the license deadline, the actor can pretty much serve his sentence, such as it is, at "his leisure." In fact, Knecht told Hollywood.com that Priestley might not return to these shores until September or October. "Side Man" wraps in June, and Priestley tells Knecht that he's got other Euro gigs to tend to after that.
Priestley's car troubles began Dec. 2 when he ran his Porsche into "several fixed objects," including, er, a parked car. His passenger, a 27-year-old friend, suffered a broken arm.
At the time, the actor argued that he'd merely been trying to avoid a deer when he started crashing into all that stuff. Police later said the actor was legally drunk.
The jail that's Priestley headed to, by the way, isn't exactly Sing-Sing. Knecht says the star won't be required to stay on the grounds 24/7 -- although he will have to bed down there at night.
HOLD THE RICE: Courtney Love is not engaged to record exec Jim Barber, no matter what Women's Wear Daily says. Love's publicist today denied the WWD report that had the couple walking down the aisle. Love and Barber are an item, the rep says -- they're just not spouses-to-be.
IMAGINE HOW CHAD LOWE FELT: Best Actress winner Hilary Swank "should not stand up there and thank my child," so says the ticked-off mother of Teena Brandon, the real-life gender-bended subject of "Boys Don't Cry." JoAnn Brandon took exception to Swank's Oscar-night speech, the one in which she forgot to thank her husband but did pay tribute to Teena, or as Swank called "him," "Brandon Teena." Says Mrs. Brandon: "I get tired of people taking credit for what they don't know."
NOW THAT'S THEATER! Kathleen Turner is drawing raves (and raising blood pressures) among pasty-faced theater critics for taking it off -- taking it all off -- in the new London stage production of "The Graduate," based on the 1967 film. Turner, 45, bowed as Mrs. Robinson in a Monday night preview performance.
SO SORRY: Led Zeppelin rocker Jimmy Page did not don a robe, cast a satanic spell and otherwise stand idly by whilst bandmate John Bonham choked to death on his own vomit in 1980. The British magazine Ministry, which said all that stuff about Page, today apologized for the story that appeared in its pages last year. Unfortunately, the magazine could not take back the thing about Bonham choking to death on his (Bonham's) vomit. That part really happened.
GOOD-TIME CHARLIE: In a Malibu, Calif., court Monday, onetime bad-boy Charlie Sheen, 34, was released from probation two months early on account of the judge doesn't think he's such a bad boy anymore. That sigh of relief you hear is from the producers of "Spin City," the ABC sitcom on which Sheen will step into next season.
THEY SEE DEAD PRESIDENTS: Shut out at the Oscars or not, "The Sixth Sense" keeps rolling along at the box office. The thriller is now the No. 10 domestic grosser of all time. Through March 23, it had raked in $290.3 million at the box office, bumping 1980 "Star Wars" sequel "The Empire Strikes Back" ($290 mil) from the vaunted Top 10.
HEADLINE NEWS: CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour is a new mommy, having given birth to son Darius on Monday in Washington, D.C. The dad (and Amanpour's husband) is U.S. State Department spokesman James P. Rubin.
GRUNGE LIVES: Pearl Jam has announced plans to launch a 39-date North American tour August 3 in Virginia. The caravan is tentatively scheduled to wrap Nov. 5 in (where else?) Seattle.