The magic of shooting three epic fantasy movies all at once: as soon as the first film bows in theaters, the next installment is right on its heels. And you know what that means: promotion, promotion, promotion.
Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arrived on Blu-ray this week after quietly passing the $1 billion worldwide mark earlier this month. That could have been the sign of a lull for the successful Tolkein franchise, but to ensure Middle Earth fever while also reminding us that he's actually the king of the fantasy world, Jackson held a live-streaming event to reveal to fans the very first footage of his 2013 follow-up, The Desolation of Smaug. Jacksons' reveal was for privileged purchasers of the Blu-ray only (with no plans in place to post the coveted footage online), but Hollywood.com was on hand to check out the footage and hear what the director had to say about the anticipated sequel. No rest on the road to the Lonely Mountain.
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Sprinkled throughout the event were snippets from the upcoming film, though no cohesive trailer — that's saved for this summer, folks — as well as questions from fans and friends of Middle Earth. This, of course, included taped segments from Orlando Bloom, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Billy Boyd, Evangeline Lilly, Stephen Fry, Dominic Monaghan, and even Tolkein super-fan Stephen Colbert.
The newest footage revealed that a more extensive look into the backstory of The Necromancer — something new in store for the films versus the book. When asked if "The Necromancer [would] play a bigger role" in his version, Jackson was quick to quip "yes…but that's all I'm saying." The audience was then segued into footage of Gandalf and Radagast entering a dark, ominous, almost jail-esque cavern. The sequence is part of the "expansion" of The Hobbit that Jackson mentioned, which focuses largely on building out the story of The Necromancer, played by Smaug voicer and villain-du-jour, Benedict Cumberbatch.
The quick :30 seconds (if that) of footage opened on Gandalf seemingly on a quest of his own to find out why the sword Glamdring "got out into the world," only to discover that there's much more at play here — tying into this newer Necromancer storyline. The wizard Radagast appears (seemingly out of nowhere) and confusedly asks "why am I here, Gandalf?" There are doorways to the tombs where we meet the two wizards are covered with twisted and rusted ironwork: all doors to small rooms, destroyed. "This is not a nice place to meet," Gandalf stated, before Radagast followed up with the question "who's buried here?" Gandalf seems to take in all the destruction around him (the tomb/underground-looking prison is largely broken and destroyed), and explained that the destroyer of the cell/tomb spaces "would've been known only as a servant of evil." And when Radagast asked "who would break into such a foul place," Gandalf ominously stated "No one, these tombs were opened from the inside" before the scene cut away.
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There was talk of hot dwarves (we're not the only ones obsessed), the visual creation of Mirkwood, Bard the Bowman, aka "one of the really cool things about the second movie," and even a "not quite there yet" sneak peek of Smaug's CGI creation (he was getting a wee bit of a wing-expansion). While Jackson cited "the confrontation between Smaug and Bilbo" as the scene he's most excited to see play out on screen, he did acknowledge that middle films — much like Middle Earth itself — can be quite the challenge. "It is complicated to do a middle film," Jackson explained, answering a fan question, "but the advantage is … we have multiple story lines ... and we can start following multiple characters." A solid change up from the first, very-linear (storyline-wise) plot of An Unexpected Journey.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug arrives Dec. 13, 2013. An Unexpected Journey is out now on Blu-ray in both 2D and 3D versions.
Follow Alicia on Twitter @alicialutes
[Photo Credit: Warner Brothers]
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Look out! Here comes the Spider-Man!
The friendly neighborhood web-slinger may ignore wealth and fame, but that won't stop this $120 million adaptation of the vintage comic book from trying to shatter box office records.
The first of the summer's anticipated blockbusters, director Sam Raimi's spin on Spider-Man will attempt to do what X-Men and Men in Black fail to do before it: unseat Batman as the top-grossing film based on a comic book.
An early May release resulted in enduring runs for 1999's The Mummy ($155.3 million), 2000's Gladiator ($187 million) and The Mummy Returns ($202 million). Spider-Man faces no serious competition until the May 16 release of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, which also is the only other potential blockbuster to hit theaters until mid-June.
Just like Superman, Spider-Man's enduring popularity extends beyond the pages of comic books. That should help Spider-Man debut somewhere between The Mummy Returns ($68.1 million) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park ($72.1 million) openings. Also, Spider-Man should trump the grosses of such fellow but lesser-known Marvel Comics superheroes X-Men ($54.4 million opening, $157.2 million total) and Blade 2 ($32.5 million opening, $79.4 million total through Sunday).
If Spider-Man indeed opens strong, it will attract significant Attack of the Clones spillover business, just as The Mummy did against Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace in 1999. This would help Spider-Man make a serious run at surpassing Batman's $251.1 million total.
Whereas Tim Burton's Batman was dark and brooding, Raimi's Spider-Man is bright but certainly not as garish or campy as the last two Batman sequels. It's also lovingly faithful to the comic book--even down to the way it sets up a sequel--but accessible enough to attract those who have no intention of ever reading a comic book or a graphic novel.
Tobey Maguire is perfectly nerdy as Peter Parker, the high school wallflower transformed into a man of action after being bitten by a radioactive spider. He faces an appropriately menacing Willem Dafoe, as Spidey's archenemy the Green Goblin, and pines for the spunky Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst).
The success--or even inconceivable failure--of Spider-Man could have tremendous ramifications on the various big-budget adaptations of other Marvel-related films in the works. Daredevil, with Ben Affleck as the man without fear, is scheduled for Jan. 17. X-Men 2 will occupy the early May 2003 slot. The Hulk, directed by Ang Lee, will begin his rampage in June 2003. Plans also are in the works for third Blade, a second attempt at The Punisher and The Sub-Mariner. Spider-Man could also be the impetus for such long-gestating projects as The Fantastic Four, The Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider and the next installments of such D.C. Comics staples as Superman and Batman.
With Spider-Man's arrival, The Rock might find himself subdued in much the same manner as the unfortunate wrestler whom Peter Parker throws around for a cash prize.
The WWF superstar's first vehicle, The Scorpion King, took a nasty 50 percent tumble in its second weekend, down from $36 million to $18 million. The Rock should serve as the No. 1 destination for those unable to pack into Spider-Man, but another 50 percent tumble this weekend looks likely.
Still, with a regal $64.3 million through Wednesday, The Scorpion King looks set to cross the $100 million barrier and cement The Rock's status as the next action hero.
Who dares take on the spectacular Spider-Man?
Another bespectacled drip, of course.
Woody Allen's annual ensemble offering, Hollywood Ending, stars the New York auteur as a director who must wrap his latest film after temporarily losing his sight. Tea Leoni, Debra Messing and Treat Williams co-star.
Hollywood Ending follows the same release pattern as Allen's previous DreamWorks releases Small Time Crooks and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion by debuting at between 700 and 900 theaters. Hollywood Ending should duplicate the same $3.8 million opening as Small Time Crooks and fare better than the poorly reviewed The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, which endured a puny $2.4 million opening and made only $7.4 million. If Hollywood Ending experiences a successful expansion on May 10, then it could equal Small Time Crooks' $17 million total.
Hollywood Ending should fare better than Deuces Wild, which was delayed last year by MGM subsidy United Artists following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It also was scheduled to open last week, when it would have stood some chance against Life or Something Like It and Jason X, but now it has been pushed back to challenge Spider-Man.
The 1950s gang warfare hits 1,300 theaters with no fanfare and little in the way of genuine star power. Stephen Dorff has never headlined a hit, and such recent efforts as Space Truckers and Entropy went straight to video.
Matt Dillon pops up, no doubt in a nod to his appearance in the similarly themed The Outsiders and Rumble Fish. The cast also includes such up-and-coming notables as Brad Renfro, Norman Reedus, Frankie Muniz and James Franco, who incidentally stars as Peter Parker's rich roommate in Spider-Man. With Deuces Wild likely to make about $3 million this weekend, care to wonder which films will get Franco more work?
Comedy sure isn't pretty for Angelina Jolie.
The platinum-coiffed Jolie didn't generate very many laughs as a TV news reporter who believes she has only one week to live. Life or Something Like It opened with a pathetic $6.2 million. This marks the second comedy headlined by Hollywood's new leading ladies that has bombed in less than one month, the other being Cameron Diaz's equally disastrous The Sweetest Thing ($9.4 million opening, $22 million total through Wednesday).
Life or Something Like It also represents Jolie's second consecutive flop after Lara Croft: Tomb Raider scored $131.1 million. Original Sin, the silly, steamy thriller co-starring Antonio Banderas, opened with $6.4 million but was giggled out of theaters with a pathetic $16.5 million. Life or Something Like It, which has $7.4 million through Wednesday, will barely do better. Seems Jolie should resume raiding tombs pronto.
Not even a technological upgrade could stir up much interest in that one-man killing machine Jason Voorhees.
Jason X, the 10th in the seemingly unstoppable Friday the 13th series, sliced up a meager $6.6 million in its debut. That's less than the $7.5 million that Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday opened with in 1993.
With $7.6 million through Wednesday, Jason X looks like it will do no better than Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday's $15.5 million total. Relocating Jason from present-day Camp Crystal Lake to a spaceship some 450 years in the future clearly did not tantalize those who grew bored with his killing spree during the late 1980s.
Jason X's failure not only heralds the possible demise of the series--at least theatrically--but could signal possible disinterest in another revived 1980s slasher saga, this summer's Halloween: Homecoming.
Changing Lanes proved its durability this weekend by dropping only 18.6 percent in its third weekend, from $11 million to $9 million. Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson could play their intense game of cat and mouse for a strong fourth week before facing competition in the upcoming Unfaithful.
Changing Lanes, which has $46.2 million through Wednesday, could find itself coming to a halt somewhere past Jackson's Rules of Engagement ($61.3 million).
After a lackluster $9.3 million debut, Sandra Bullock's Murder by Numbers eased by a respectable 31.6 percent in its second week to $6.3 million. Still, its weak $19.8 million total through Wednesday indicates that the chiller, with Bullock as a cop out to bust two murderous teens, isn't striking much of a chord among fans of her goofy romantic comedies.
Interest also is waning in two other women-in-distress thrillers.
Jodie Foster's Panic Room slid 29.8 percent in its fifth weekend, from $6 million to $4.2 million. With $88.6 million through Wednesday, Panic Room should still manage to cross $100 million to become Foster's biggest hit since 1991's The Silence of the Lambs ($130.7 million).
Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman might have looked harder at scripts before settling on the unintelligible High Crimes as their first film together since 1996's Kiss the Girls. The thriller dropped an OK 21 percent in its fourth weekend, from $3.9 million to $3.1 million, and has $35.7 million through Wednesday. Kiss the Girls ended its run with $60.5 million and paved the way for the successful Judd-less prequel Along Came a Spider ($74 million).
Aging standbys Ice Age and The Rookie continue to entertain families.
Ice Age, which has $166.4 million through Wednesday, will likely stick around in the Top 10 until fellow animated adventure Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron gallops into theaters on May 24.
The pitch count grows higher and higher for The Rookie, but there's no need to call up the bullpen. Dennis Quaid's biography of Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitcher Jim Morris has $61.5 million through Wednesday.
Bill Paxton's Frailty, bedeviled by an ill-conceived wide release, fell out of the Top 10 with just $10.1 million through Sunday. Going the art house route continues to benefit Monsoon Wedding ($8.1 million through Sunday), Y Tu Mama Tambien ($7.2 million through Sunday), Kissing Jessica Stein ($5.6 million through Sunday) and My Big Fat Greek Wedding ($1.6 million through Sunday).
The jury remains out on The Cat's Meow, a lively 1920s drama based on Hollywood folklore that marks a stunning return to form for director Peter Bogdanovich. The ensemble cast includes Kirsten Dunst, Eddie Izzard and Cary Elwes.
The Cat's Meow has a modest $786,921 through Sunday after expanding in its third weekend to 135 theaters.
Dunst's presence in Spider-Man could lure some of her fans to the murder mystery as enjoyable as Gosford Park.
This is a tough one to judge. You never get any explanation of who these people are or why they do what they do; if you don't know the video game you're basically thrown into Tomb Raider blind. Just go with it and figure it'll all make sense eventually. It does--for the most part. Lara Croft (Jolie) who is carrying on her deceased father's (Jon Voight) work as an English archaeologist/antiquities hunter uncovers an ancient puzzle that she must solve before it's too late. Centuries before a mysterious otherworldly object with a godlike power to alter time was split in two and the pieces buried in tombs on opposite ends of the earth. Jolie must race against time to find both halves of the object and destroy it before a leader of an evil secret society (Iain Glen) gets his hands on it.
With her long dark braid and impossible figure (thanks to some stuffing up top) Jolie certainly is a dead ringer for über-heroine Croft. Her hoity-toity monotone Brit accent is sporadic and fleeting; she slips in and out of it as often and easily as she does impending death. Our globetrotting superwoman switches languages as needed winning over Buddhist monks and little Mongolian girls in the process (tell me please how she wears a T-shirt while dog sledding in Siberia while everyone else is bundled up in parkas? That bra must've been padded with Thinsulate). Jolie can kick butt with the best of 'em but she's tiresome. All arch looks and badass 'tude this Kelly-LeBrock-for-the-new-millennium is not terribly much fun. Granted Croft has serious work to do but a little lightheartedness goes a long way. Raiders of the Lost Ark this ain't.
Given that there's little story line acted out by characters with whom it's hard to connect since you have no idea who they are the movie surprisingly manages to keep your attention for a couple hours. Then again that could be due to the tremendous and seemingly never-ending clamor on screen where every few seconds a hailstorm of bullets showers the scene or really big things are happening--gargantuan rock statues turn into sword-wielding CGI beasts enormous retro-futuristic contraptions like something out of Brazil materialize from the earth beams of light descend from the distant beyond. Or maybe it's just the mesmerizing effect of waiting for Jolie's lips to crawl across her face like two fat slugs going after the magic jasmine Daddy Croft told Lara about.