Things haven't changed much since we last saw teen spy Cody Banks (Frankie Muniz): His parents (Cynthia Stevenson and Daniel Roebuck) are still in the dark about what their now 16-year-old son does for a living and drop him off for the summer at Kamp Woody which is really secret teen CIA training program. But it turns out the camp's director Diaz (Keith Allen) is a rogue CIA agent who has stolen a top-secret mind-control device that he plans on individually implanting into the teeth of the world's leaders in order to rule the planet. When he escapes to London to begin his evil undertaking Cody must pose as a student at an elite boarding school for musically gifted kids to get close to his target who is in cahoots with the headmistress' husband. As if that was not enough Cody also has to deal with his new "handler " the clumsy buffoon Derek (Anthony Anderson) who keeps botching up their plans all while keeping his identity a secret from the other students at school. Will he succeed in stopping the bad guys from taking over the world?
Poor Muniz. The Malcolm in the Middle star has fallen prey to studio execs who seem eager to jump on the teen spy bandwagon by riding on the coattails of Spy Kids' appeal and the modest success of its original film rather than churning out a decent PG flick. While Muniz is still charming as Cody an adolescent wise beyond his years his character comes across as a stick in the mud when paired with a slapstick character such as Anderson's Derek. In the first film Muniz got to act like a kid an inadequate teen smitten by his agency mentor Ronica played by Angie Harmon. Here none of the characters seem to have any common sense and Cody is forced to be the mature one. This switch sort of takes the fun and innocence out of it. And poor Anderson. The comedian is stuck in the role of the inept CIA reject whose disguises perpetuate every black stereotype imaginable including a cook "straight outta Compton" and robe-wearing African. Hannah Spearritt who plays Emily a Scotland Yard agent also posing as a student is the brightest addition to the cast but her role is almost marginal in this sequel.
Director Kevin Allen who brought us the 2000 hairdressing comedy The Big Tease delivers a teen actioner that mechanically plods through its formulaic script. The film has all the ingredients necessary for a delectable spy pic--cool gadgets exciting chases diabolical villains covert hideouts--but the end product is as bland as kidney pie. While the original Agent Cody Banks had a sophisticated sense of humor to it this sequel is clumsy and crass. Cody's awkwardness around the opposite sex in the original film for example was sweet. Here the team of writers--Don Rhymer Harald Zwart and Dylan Sellers--injects perverted overtones into the film that are just so wrong. Take "Kamp Woody " bandleader Mr. Jerksalot the invariable references to Cody's instrument and the boatload of phallic-looking weapons including a retainer that can act as a receiver with proper tongue manipulation or Diaz's giant charged flashlight. For viewers who somehow missed the writers' not-so-clever nuances there is plenty of unoriginal dialogue to roll your eyes at including the Brit gem "Don't get your knickers in a twist."
It's Anger Management without the comedy or One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest without Jack Nicholson. Sounds cheerful eh? Lyle (Third Rock From the Sun's Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a quiet but rage-filled 17-year-old is committed to a juvenile mental institution when he beats some kid senseless with a baseball bat after being teased relentlessly. Unlike the other kids in Dr. Monroe's (Don Cheadle) therapy group which includes rich Goth kid Sara (Sara Rivas) bully Michael (Elden Henson) and bipolar Chad (Michael Bacall who also co-wrote) Lyle is stoic and silent refusing to discuss his problems in any other way than with his fists. Lyle is increasingly attracted to the equally silent Tracey (Zooey Deschanel) who wakes the ward up every night screaming from nightmares and sympathetic to his painfully shy roommate Kenny (Cody Lightning) who has been raped by his stepfather. Despite Lyle's determination to hold on to his anger the doctor's words and advice slowly seep in. He begins to discover he has an inner strength that not only helps him learn to deal with his own issues but also gives him the desire--if sadly not the ability--to help others.
Gordon-Levitt owns this film doing a 540-degree shift from his lively Third Rock teen and demonstrating there's way more to this young actor than first meets the eye. Instead of chewing the scenery (as most actors playing angry people are wont to do) his Lyle is understated and forceful his seething fury at everything--including himself--masked by an unnervingly calm expression. You've no doubt that he's pissed as all get out as he whales on bellicose Michael for insulting Tracey without blinking an eye. As the wide-eyed and sweetly damaged Tracey Deschanel is quietly effective as is Lightning whose Kenny is heartbreaking without saying three words throughout the movie. The dialogue even that tossed off by the bit performers is so authentic that for a minute you could be convinced you're watching a documentary. Of everyone Cheadle is the least realistic as he spouts trite plastic-chair psychology and panders to the troubled teens ("Why are you here Michael?" "What makes you angry Chad?") while remaining strangely MIA during their biggest freakouts.
If big studio films are to commercial radio what indie films are to college radio then IFC's Manic could be the latter's Sonic Youth (which in fact would be appropriate given that the band's founder Thurston Moore provides music for the film). Director Jordan Melamed's debut has been on the shelf since it screened with some critical success at Sundance in 2001; two years later Melamed's Dogme95 style of absolute nonconformity (he follows the rules laid by directors like Lars von Trier by not using any fixed cameras special effects or anything that would peg the film to an existing genre) seems dated. From the get-go you're dizzied by jittery cinema verite camerawork that might once have seemed edgy but now is just flat-out annoying. In addition some of the metaphorical imagery is way too obvious--Van Gogh artwork birds the books the kids read. However Melamed pulls out some fascinatingly understated performances that are just restrained and youthlike enough to be startlingly believable (helped no doubt by being filmed in an actual abandoned mental institution).
It's very clear that during the current world turmoil, as war is played out 24 hours a day on television, audiences want to go to the movie to escape--and laugh their butts off.
The new Chris Rock comedy Head of State took the top office in movieland this weekend with a nice $14 million* in pocket change, defeating incumbant Bringing Down the House . The Queen Latifah/Steve Martin laffer followed closely behind with $12.5 million. So far, six of the ten top ten grossing films released in 2003 have been comedies.
"There's strong evidence that comedies are on people's minds," Jim Tharp, head of distribution for DreamWorks which released Head of State, told The Associated Press.
The other new releases were neck-and-neck in the final tally: The disaster film The Core opened at No. 3 at $12.4 million, while the military drama Basic came in fourth place with $12.1 million.
Meanwhile, no doubt capitalizing on winning six Oscars last weekend, including Best Picture, Chicago rounds out the top five with $7.4 million.
Overall box office numbers, however, are still down considerably from last year--at least 5 to 6 percent, Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations told AP. Studios are banking on the upcoming summer releases--starting with The Matrix: Reloaded which opens May 15--to help boost the sagging grosses.
THE TOP TEN
DreamWorks' PG-13 campaign comedy Head of State was voted into the top spot with an ESTIMATED $14 million at 2,150 theaters ($6,512 per theater).
The comedy centers on a good-hearted Washington, D.C., neighborhood alderman who is plucked from obscurity to run as a candidate for President of the United States--and shows how a real presidential campaign should be run.
Directed by and starring Chris Rock, the film also stars Bernie Mac, Lynn Whitfield, Robin Givens and Tamala Jones.
Buena Vista's PG-13 Bringing Down the House, which has ruled for the last three weeks, dropped a notch to No. 2 with an ESTIMATED $12.5 million (-23%) at 2,910 theaters (+39; $4,296 per theater). With a total of approximately $100 million so far, House joins How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days (whose cume is approximately $101.1 million) as the second film released in 2003 to hit the $100 million mark.
Directed by Adam Shankman, it stars Steve Martin and Queen Latifah.
Third place belonged to Paramount Pictures' new release PG-13 The Core, which nearly caught up to House with an ESTIMATED $12.4 million at 3,017 theaters ($4,110 per theater).
The disaster flick follows a team of scientists who must journey to the center of the Earth to jump-start the planet's slowing rotation before the world is literally cooked by electrical storms.
Directed by Jon Amiel, it stars Hilary Swank, Aaron Eckhart, Delroy Lindo, Stanley Tucci, D.J. Qualls and Tcheky Karyo.
Following close behind, Sony Pictures' R-rated Basic opened in the fourth spot with an ESTIMATED $12.1 million at 2,876 theaters ($4,207 per theater).
The military drama focuses on a rebellious DEA agent who investigates the disappearance of an elite squad of Army Rangers in Panama.
Directed by John McTiernan, it stars John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Connie Nielsen.
Dropping off a bit in box office grosses, Miramax Films' PG-13 Chicago managed to stay in the middle of the pack at No. 5 with an ESTIMATED $7.4 million (+20%) at 2,701 theaters (+136; $2,746 per theater). The film's cume is approximately $144.8 million.
Directed by Rob Marshall, it stars Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Last week's No. 2 opener, Warner Bros. R-rated Dreamcatcher, slid way down to sixth place with an ESTIMATED $6.3 million (-58%) at 2,945 theaters ($2,158 per theater). The film, based on the Stephen King novel about four friends who must deal with an alien invasion, has made approximately $25.3 million so far.
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan, the film stars Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis and Donnie Wahlberg.
MGM's PG-rated Agent Cody Banks, now in its third week, also dropped a few notches from third to seventh place with an ESTIMATED $6.1 million (-34%) at 2,786 theaters (-583 theaters; $2,190 per theater). The 'tweeny spy flick's cume is approximately $34.8 million.
Directed by Harald Zwart, it stars Frankie Muniz, Hilary Duff and Angie Harmon.
At No. 8, Buena Vista's animated G-rated Piglet's Big Movie dropped a spot from its opening last week but still attracted the younger set with an ESTIMATED $4.6 million (-25%) at 2,084 theaters ($2,207 per theater). The story about how little Piglet becomes the big hero has taken in approximately $12.4 million so far.
Directed by Francis Glebas, it features the voices of John Fiedler, James Cummings and Andre Stojka.
Miramax's PG-13 View From the Top slipped from its fourth place opening to ninth place with an ESTIMATED $3.8 million (-46%) at 2,508 theaters ($1,515 per theater). About a girl from a Nevada trailer park who sets her sights on becoming a flight attendant, its cume is approximately $12.5 million.
Directed by Bruno Barreto, the film stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Kelly Preston and Christina Applegate.
Rounding out the Top 10, Paramount's R-rated The Hunted took in an ESTIMATED $3.6 million (-44%) at 2,244 theaters (-273 theaters; $1,638 per theater). Now in its third week, the knife-driven thriller's cume is approximately $29.2 million.
Directed by William Friedkin, it stars Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro and Connie Nielsen.
United Artists' R-rated drama Assassination Tango opened in seven theaters with an ESTIMATED $64,000 ($9,143 per theater).
The film is directed by and stars Robert Duvall as an assassin stuck in Buenos Aires on a job who becomes enmeshed in the world of the dance club tango. The film also stars Ruben Blade, Kathy Baker and marks the debut of Lucianna Pedraza, Duvall's real-life partner.
This weekend's top 12 haul totaled only $87.3 million, down almost 24 percent from the same weekend last year, which saw a take of $114.2 million.
Last year, Sony's R-rated Panic Room debuted at the top of the box office with $30 million at 3,053 theaters ($9,845 per theater); Fox's PG rated Ice Age came in second with $18 million at 3,333 theaters ($5,441 per theater); and Buena Vista's G-rated The Rookie opened in third with $16 million at 2,511 theaters ($6,381 per theater).
When he was 12 years old Cody Banks (Frankie Muniz) was recruited to attend a summer camp secretly run by the CIA. Four years later the Agency comes knocking on his door with a mission: He must get close to Natalie Connors (Hilary Duff) a prep school student in Cody's home town and the daughter of a scientist developing deadly nanobot technology for the evil organization ERIS. Problem is Cody is not the most confident guy when it comes to girls and meeting Natalie proves to be a mission in itself. Luckily for Cody his agency mentor is the stunning Ronica Miles (Angie Harmon) who knows a thing or two about relationships. Cody must now prove himself as an agent and stop ERIS from completing its mission. Can he do it? And more importantly will he get the girl? With its crop of predictable gadgets and two-dimensional villains Agent Cody Banks MGM's answer to James Bond for 'tweens is not too imaginative. But its likeable cast and characters make this pic a tolerable undertaking.
Muniz is only 16 years old but he's hardly a newcomer to Hollywood. He stars in Fox's hit sitcom Malcolm in the Middle and has two features My Dog Skip and Big Fat Liar under his belt. Muniz doesn't come across as a manufactured Hollywood kid actor and there is something refreshing about the fact that he doesn't use puppy dog eyes or speak childishly to wring sympathy out of moviegoers. He possesses an intelligence that comes through in his work especially here where he plays a quick-thinking operative. Duff meanwhile stars in her own hit Disney Channel series Lizzie Maguire a comedy about a young teenager and her animated alter ego. In Cody Banks Duff plays Natalie a smart and clever teen who doesn't have to follow the pack to be popular. Together Duff and Muniz make a snappy little onscreen duo. Rounding out the cast is Harmon (formerly of NBC's Law and Order) as Cody's proctor. Harmon obviously saw the humor in this part and ran with it. You'll love her leather outfits and shoulder-pad stuffed cleavage.
Director Harald Zwart's pint-sized secret agent flick is packed with silly but entertaining action sequences. The film starts off on a high as Cody jumps on his skateboard to save a toddler trapped inside a runaway car in a thrilling high-speed rescue. Although Agent Cody Banks has some lively action the storyline is a bit derivative and follows the basic spy formula of good versus evil complete with bald scarred villains seeking to destroy the world for no reason other than to be well evil. The gadgets--an important part of any spy movie--are also basic fare (think suction cup shoes and x-ray vision glasses). But the film is still fun to watch because a) it only runs 96 minutes leaving little time for boredom to set in b) it's got a really likeable cast and c) it doesn't take itself seriously. Zwart who directed the 2001 comedy One Night at McCool's lightens the film with some humorous touches here and there including playing Nelly's "Hot in Herre" whenever Ronica Miles makes a sultry entrance.
Benicio Del Toro needs to allow his broken wrist to heal for at least one month longer before he returns to the set of his new film, The Hunted, Reuters reports. Del Toro, who is wearing a sling during a trip to Cuba to introduce free screenings of Traffic, broke his wrist in April during a fight scene with The Hunted costar Tommy Lee Jones.
Radio commentator Paul Harvey will receive outpatient surgery later this month to fix a vocal cord damaged by a virus, The Associated Press reports. Harvey, famous for his The Rest of the Story radio program, went off the air in May and will likely return at the end of August.
Warning to celebrities everywhere: think twice the next time that you stop to sign an autograph. Rap mogul Sean "Puffy" Combs stopped Tuesday to give his John Hancock to fans in New York, only to be entrapped by a process server, according to the New York Post's PageSix.com. Kim Porter, the mother of Combs' youngest son, Christian, is reportedly suing Combs for child support. Porter wants more than the $7,000 a month that Combs currently pays.
Former Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith must pay $541,000 in attorney's fees, a Texas judge said Tuesday, Reuters reported. Smith also must pay an unspecified part of the $1.2 million in court costs stemming from her six-year fight over the fortune of her late husband, oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall III. A Los Angeles bankruptcy judge awarded Smith $475 million from the estate in June. That decision is now being reviewed following an appeal by Marshall's son, Pierce, who contends that Smith, 33, is a golddigger. Smith married the wheelchair-bound Marshall when she was 26 and he was 89.
Paula Poundstone has postponed a comedy tour after pleading not guilty last week to charges of committing lewd acts on a child and child endangerment, People magazine reports. She is in rehab for treatment of alcohol abuse, her attorney said Monday, and will return to court July 30.
Harrison Ford once again came to the rescue of a hiker in trouble. He helped locate a missing Utah Boy Scout who wandered off a trail Monday and spent the night alone in the woods of the Yellowstone National Park in Jackson, Wyo., The Associated Press reports. Ford, a part-time Jackson resident, flew his helicopter as part of the search-and-rescue mission. Ford and another searcher found the cold and hungry Cody Clawson, 13, on Tuesday morning about 10 miles from the Boy Scout camp. Last year, Ford rescued a sick hiker stranded on Wyoming's Table Mountain and flew her to a hospital.
Former Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert is planning to run for president of the factionalized Screen Actors Guild, The Associated Press reports. William Daniels, SAG's current president, has not said whether he would seek a second term. Union members will receive elections ballots in mid-October, with the results scheduled for announcement in early November.
Is one stage big enough for both the so-called King of Pop and the Godfather? Marlon Brando will pay homage to Michael Jackson at the Sept. 7 all-star concert in Jackson's honor, Launch.com reports. The legendary actor will join such other luminaries as Whitney Houston, Britney Spears and Ricky Martin during two concerts scheduled for Sept. 7 and Sept. 10.
DreamWorks will need to pony up $35,000 an hour if it wants Eddie Murphy to continue to act like a donkey. Murphy, Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz are each negotiating a $35,000 hourly fee to lend their voices to the planned Shrek sequel, Variety reports. This could net the trio $5 million each. Final negotiations are set for later this week.
Forget about asking Madonna for a free ticket to her sold-out series of U.S. concerts. The Material Girl turned down requests for complimentary tickets by the likes of Mick Jagger, Elton John and George Michael, who all dug deep into their pockets to pay $125 to catch her perform in London. "If you want a ticket for one of her shows, you have to pay," Madonna spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg told the New York Post.
The Hawaii-set Magnum, P.I. went off the air in 1988, but it's taken star Tom Selleck 13 years to put his Oahu house on the market. Avid fans can snap up Selleck's three-bedroom house for $2.7 million, The Associated Press reports. He bought the house--which overlooks the Kahala coast--in 1981 for $700,000.
Life is not beautiful for Andrew Lloyd Webber. His new musical, the Irish soccer-themed The Beautiful Game, will close Sept. 26 despite good reviews and plenty of awards. The musical is one of many victims of a slump in tourism that has crippled London's West End theater district. But the show will go on: Webber plans to stage the musical next year in Toronto.
The West Coast board of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists approved Tuesday a tentative three-year deal with studios and TV networks, Variety reports. SAG's East Coast board will address the deal--which includes a hike in the minimum pay scale in the ballpark of 3 percent to 3.5 percent annually over three years- on Thursday. Union members will then likely receive mail ballots within three weeks.
Based on a book by William Steig the deliriously warped Shrek unfolds as a vividly rendered computer-animated romp with a heart as big as its hero. It also lovingly evokes the spirit of traditional fairy tales while spoofing such contemporary cultural cornerstones as The Matrix and Babe. Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) longs for peace and solitude but the likes of Goldilocks and the Three Pigs seek solace in Shrek's swamp after being expelled from a fiefdom run by the diminutive Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow). Farquaad agrees to remove the fairy-tale characters from Shrek's land should the ogre rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from a tower guarded by a dragon. With the trusty but jabbering Donkey (Eddie Murphy) by his side Shrek saves Fiona. He soon falls for her but fearing rejection dares not tell her of his love. Fiona meanwhile harbors a dark secret that could ruin her impending marriage to Farquaad.
Imagine a kinder gentler version of Myers' Fat Bastard from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. That's Shrek. Myers' Scottish brogue brings out the charm in an ogre emotionally crippled by a severe lack of self-esteem. Myers restrains himself but that's because Shrek plays the straight monster to Murphy's loud-mouthed Donkey. (Yes expect plenty of ass jokes at Donkey's expense.) Murphy's a riot as he lets loose firing off one zinger after another or bursting into song. A spunky Diaz ensures that her Princess Fiona could teach Charlie's Angels a lesson or two in romance and survival skills. As Farquaad--avoid saying his name too fast when in the company of children--Lithgow is suitably Napoleonic. He also claims some of Shrek's funniest moments including a priceless Dating Game take-off with Farquaad picking out his princess via selections put forth by a stolen Magic Mirror.
Shrek immediately sets aside any notions that this is a grand Disney-ified fairy tale plump with Broadway-style tunes. The first glimpse of Shrek comes when the ogre dashes out of an outhouse having employed a page torn from a book of fairy tales for hygienic purposes. Other bodily functions--executed with childish delight--soon follow. Shrek also tickles a parent's funny bone most notably with its song parodies (pity the bluebird that sings a duet with Fiona). Yet the film's strange and twisted ways do not prevent Shrek from being an enchanting paean to the power of love and friendship. Shrek does harbor a less benevolent agenda one which playfully skewers all things Disney. Producer Jeffrey Katzenberg--who left Disney under bad terms--pokes gentle fun at the company's canon of fairy-tale characters and the sterile environment of its theme parks. Disney execs may not laugh but everyone else will.