Few of the powerful men who helped shape America in the 20th century are as polarizing as J. Edgar Hoover considering the peaks and valleys of his nearly half-century-long reign as the director of the FBI and his closely guarded private life. However while there is much to debate about whether the heroism of Hoover’s early career outweighs the knee-jerk paranoia that clouded the end of his run at the Bureau and about what really turned on this lifelong bachelor one aspect of Hoover’s life is inarguable: this was a man who possessed a rare gift for establishing and maintaining order. Everything that fell under his control was meticulously kept in its place from the fingerprints on file in the FBI’s database to the cleanly shaved faces of his loyal G-Men.
It’s an unfortunate irony then that J. Edgar the biopic focused on this ruthlessly organized administrative genius is such a sloppy awkwardly assembled mess. Its lack of tidiness hardly suits its central character and is also shockingly uncharacteristic of director Clint Eastwood. The filmmaker’s recent creative renaissance which began in 2003 with the moody Boston tragedy Mystic River may not have been one defined by absolute perfection—the World War II epic Flags of Our Fathers for example is no better than an admirable mixed bag—but it comes to a grinding halt with J. Edgar Eastwood’s least satisfying and least coherent effort since 1999’s True Crime. There’s no faulting the attention paid to surface period details—every tailored suit and vintage car registers as authentic—but on the most fundamental level Eastwood and writer Dustin Lance Black (an Academy Award winner for Milk as off his game as Eastwood here) haven’t figured out what kind of movie they want to shape around Hoover’s life. For two-thirds of its running time J. Edgar devotes itself to an overly dry recitation of facts about its title character which is about as viscerally thrilling as reading Hoover’s Wikipedia page and then makes a late-inning bid for romantic melodrama totally at odds with the bloodless history-lesson approach favored by the preceding 90 minutes.
The non-chronological narrative structure Black adopts to tell Hoover’s story only adds to the overall disjointedness. Star Leonardo DiCaprio is first seen caked in old-age makeup as Hoover conscious he’s nearing the end of his tenure at the Bureau dictates his memoirs to an obliging junior agent (Ed Westwick). As Hoover describes how he began his career the movie jumps back in time to depict that origin giving the false impression that the dictation scenes with old Hoover will act as necessary structural connective tissue. Instead Black eventually abandons the narrative device altogether leaving the movie rudderless in its leaps backwards and forwards through time. As a result the shuffling of scenes depicting the young Hoover achieving great success alongside his right-hand man Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) and those portraying the aging Hoover abusing his power by wire-tapping progressive luminaries (such as Martin Luther King Jr.) that he mistrusts feels frustratingly arbitrary. There’s no real rhyme or reason to why one scene follows another.
DiCaprio does his best to anchor the proceedings with a precise authoritative lead performance. Although his voice is softer than Hoover’s he mimics the crimefighter’s trademark cadence with organic ease and more importantly he manifests Hoover’s unbending fastidiousness in a number of ingenious details like in the way that Hoover reflexively adjusts a dining-room chair while in mid-conversation. But Black’s limited view of Hoover as a tyrannical egotist—the script is close to a hatchet job—denies DiCaprio the chance to play a fully three-dimensional version of the FBI pioneer. Hoover is granted the most humanity in his scenes opposite Hammer’s Tolson which are by far the most compelling in the movie. Possessing no knowledge of the secretive Hoover’s romantic life Eastwood and Black speculate that Hoover and Tolson’s relationship was defined by a mutual attraction that Tolson wanted to pursue but Hoover was too timid to even acknowledge. Hammer so sharp as the privileged Winklevoss twins in The Social Network is the only supporting player given much to do—Naomi Watts’ talents are wasted as Hoover’s generically long-suffering secretary while poor Judi Dench must have had most of her scenes as Hoover’s reactionary mother left on the cutting-room floor—and he runs with it. His mega-watt charisma is like a guarantee of future stardom and he’s actually far more effortless behind the old-age makeup than veterans DiCaprio and Watts manage to be.
While the unrequited love story between Hoover and Tolson is clearly meant to provide J. Edgar with an emotional backbone the movie takes so long to get to it that it feels instead like an afterthought. Where in all the dutiful historical-checklist-tending that dominates the film is the Eastwood who flooded the likes of The Bridges of Madison County Letters From Iwo Jima and last year’s criminally underrated Hereafter with oceans of pure feeling? He’s a neo-classical humanist master who has somehow ended up making a cold dull movie that reduces one of recent history’s most enigmatic giants to a tiresome jerk.
UPDATE: NY Magazine reports that Charlize Theron has also been tied to the Eastwood production. She's been offered the part of Helen Gandy, the woman who at 21 was selected as Hoover's personal secretary and remained at his side for 54 years. Lucky Leo, 54 (movie) years next to Charlize doesn't really sound like that much of a chore.
We already learned that Leonardo DiCaprio would team up with fellow super A-lister Clint Eastwood to bring the tale of J. Edgar Hoover, the first ever director of the FBI, to the big screen, but now the project is really beginning to take shape. Armie Hammer of The Social Network fame, is in talks to take a role alongside DiCaprio in the upcoming project. This guy is really on a roll, huh? The biggest project of note before he took on the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network was a stint as a conman on Gossip Girl last year, so I think it’s safe to say he’s enjoyed a pretty quick jump to the top.
Hammer will play Clyde Tolson, a lawyer who becomes an FBI official and who many people accused of being Hoover’s secret lover. Hoover’s dynamic friendship with Tolson remained a close one throughout their lives and should provide an interesting set of characters for DiCaprio and Hammer to work out. Besides, after seeing what he’s capable of in the Facebook movie, I’m sure he’ll be able to hold his own alongside someone with as great a presence as DiCaprio.
In addition to big names like Eastwood and DiCaprio, Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black lends his wordsmithing ability to the script. Production on the Eastwood-helmed film starts next year, and it doesn’t seem to be able to come soon enough. This project is really shaping to be an exciting look at the life of one of the most intriguing men in American history.
Source: EW, NY Mag
Summer's almost over, so Hollywood's dumping its trash.
Serving Sara, Simone and Undisputed arrived in theaters Friday after enduring production or release delays, which hardly inspires much confidence in their ultimate fates. Accordingly, none of these three new offerings stands a chance of dethroning xXx at the top of the box office. That task lies with fellow holdover Signs. They also won't help reverse a five-week slide in box office takings vs. the same time last year.
Matthew Perry's latest attempt to become a movie star should register the biggest debut simply because the broad comedy opens the widest. Hitting 2,000-plus theaters, Serving Sara stars Perry as a process server who agrees to help Elizabeth Hurley extract revenge against her former business partner. Early reviews confirm that Perry and Hurley are not Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
Perry's not had too much luck whenever he's ventured off without his sitcom Friends. Almost Heroes ($6.1 million total) and Three to Tango ($10.5 million total) both tanked. The Whole Nine Yards raked in an acceptable $57.2 million mainly on the strength of Bruce Willis' participation--perhaps that's why Perry's so eager to make the sequel. It also doesn't help that this Midnight Run wanna-be will likely see a regurgitation in stories about Perry's personal problems. He held up production of Serving Sara in 2001 while he checked himself into rehab.
So Serving Sara will have to hustle hard and fast to match the $9.7 million debut of another Perry romantic comedy, Fools Rush In, but it won't come close to exceeding its modest $29.2 million total.
Robert De Niro enjoyed huge success when he poked fun at himself in Analyze This and Meet the Parents. Now it's Al Pacino's turn to reveal his comedic side. Rather than send up his tough-guy image, Pacino instead bites the hand that feeds him with the Hollywood satire Simone, directed by The Truman Show scribe Andrew Niccol.
If The Truman Show offered a tragicomic look at reality TV, Simone provides a hysterical look at how easy it is for Hollywood to manufacture a superstar. In this case, Pacino is the has-been producer who creates a computer-generated actress in order to revive his flagging career. An unsuspecting world falls in love with Simone, initially to Pacino's glee, then to his consternation. Catherine Keener, Jay Mohr and an unbilled Winona Ryder co-star.
New Line originally scheduled Simone for an Oct. 12, 2001, release, but pushed it back to this summer for fear it would lose out to stiffer competition. The smart, sophisticated and sharply written Simone deserves better than a late-summer slot, which is tantamount to a fate worse than death. Simone, which will vie mainly for adult audiences at its 1,700-plus theaters, also faces the severe disadvantage of being about the movie industry. Audiences usually reject such films, perhaps because they read and hear enough about Hollywood news and gossip that they have no desire to see films about the moviemaking process. The rare exception was last year's America's Sweethearts, which earned $93.6 million thanks to a cast that included Julia Roberts and Billy Crystal.
Pacino's star still shines bright--Insomnia clocked up $66.8 million earlier this summer--but Simone will do no better than his 1996 flop City Hall, which opened with $6.7 million and closed with $20.2 million.
Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames prepare to beat the living daylights out of each other in Undisputed, director Walter Hill's thriller about two incarcerated boxers determined to settle once and for which one of them is the greatest.
Snipes enjoyed his biggest hit of his career earlier this year with Blade 2 ($81.6 million), but Miramax is showing him little respect. Miramax scheduled for March 8, two weeks before Blade 2's March 22 release. Miramax wisely delayed Undisputed, first pushing it back to October before bumping it up to August in place of They. But Miramax bows Undisputed in just 1,100-plus theaters, which severely limits Snipes from doing knockout business.
Undisputed will do a little more than half the business of Snipes' much-maligned baseball thriller The Fan, which opened with $6.2 million and struck out with $18.5 million. That will come as another disappointment for Hill, who removed his name from his last film, Supernova, and saw it implode with just $14.2 million.
Facing three uncompetitive new releases, Vin Diesel's xXx could be the first film since Black Hawk Down to rule the box office for at least three weekends. The noisy spy thriller, directed by Rob Cohen, dropped 50 percent in its second weekend, from $44.5 million to $22.1 million. That's the same as Diesel and Cohen's The Fast and the Furious, which tumbled 49 percent in its second weekend, from $40 million to $20 million. xXx, however, has made $88.9 million total through Tuesday vs. The Fast and the Furious's $84 million ($86.6 million) during 12 days in release.
xXx stands to make $13.5 million this weekend should it follow The Fast and the Furious's third weekend fall of 38.7 percent. Regardless, xXx will cross the $100 million barrier this weekend and end up with a total just a tad north of The Fast and the Furious's $144.5 million. xXx also is the only film with the potential to achieve blockbuster status until October's Red Dragon.
Diesel's extreme sports-driven spy, though, does face a credible threat from hostile extraterrestrials.
Signs' endurance puts it in a strong position to challenge xXx for box office supremacy. M Night Shyamalan's creepy sci-fi thriller lost just 34 percent of its audience in its third weekend, from $29.4 million to $19.3 million, for a total of $154.9 million through Tuesday. Signs recovered nicely after tumbling 51 percent in its second weekend following its $60.1 million debut.
Mel Gibson should walk away from Signs with his first $200 million smash. Signs also should surpass What Women Want's $182.8 million by Labor Day to become Gibson's biggest earner.
Blood Work, though, won't make Clint Eastwood's day. The intriguing thriller, marred only by its obvious ending, dropped 34 percent in its second weekend from a lowly $7.3 million to $4.8 million. With $16.3 million through Tuesday, Blood Work will exceed True Crime's pitiful $16.6 million but barely make more than 1990's underachieving The Rookie ($21.6 million total).
The waves proved too rocky for the spunky ladies of Blue Crush to negotiate, as the teen-oriented surfing drama opened below expectations with $14.1 million. That paves the way for a second-weekend tumble of around 50 percent. With $17.5 million through Tuesday, Blue Crush should hit the shore with about $40 million.
Blue Crush fared better than The Adventures of Pluto Nash, which opened with a career-low $2.1 million for Eddie Murphy. Warner Bros. kept the sci-fi spoof on the shelf for more than one year and did little to promote its long-delayed release. This is shaping up to be a bad year for Murphy, who already stumbled in the spring with Showtime ($37.9 million total). Murphy desperately needs November's I Spy to reverse his flagging fortunes.
Murphy's fellow ex-SNLers fared somewhat better.
Mike Myers' Austin Powers in Goldmember eased by just 33 percent in its fourth weekend, from $13 million to $8.7 million, after experiencing huge losses in its second and third weekends. Goldmember has $186.3 million through Tuesday vs. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me's $173 million ($174.4 million) through 26 days in release. Goldmember, which could hit $200 million by Labor Day, will make enough people horny to surpass Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me's $206 million total.
Dana Carvey's comeback vehicle Master of Disguise fell a respectable 38 percent in its third weekend, from $5.1 million to $3.1 million. Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams caused untold damage to the family comedy, which suffered a disturbing 59.3 percent in its second weekend after a $12.5 million opening. With $31.2 million through Tuesday, Master of Disguise represents the best showing yet for a Carvey solo venture.
Spy Kids 2 is showing better resilience than the fading Stuart Little 2, which has just $57.7 million through Tuesday. Spy Kids eased by 34 percent in its second weekend, from $16.7 million to $11.5 million, for a $48.7 million total through Tuesday after 14 days in release. Conversely, Spy Kids had $56.6 million ($61.9 million) during the same period. Spy Kids 2 won't match its predecessor's $112.6 million, but its should reach a sturdy $80 million with some ease.
Tom Hanks benefited the most from the lack of interest in the new wide releases. Road to Perdition declined by just 10 percent in its sixth weekend, from $4.2 million to $3.8 million. With $91.1 million through Tuesday, Road to Perdition could become Hanks' sixth consecutive film to cross $100 million by as early as Labor Day.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding, executive produced by Hanks, expanded in its 18th week from 723 theaters to 1,060 theaters. That resulted in an 82 percent jump in business, from $3.1 million to $5.7 million, its best weekend yet. The art house sleeper has a staggering $54.6 million through Tuesday.
The art house also seems the destination of choice for adults looking for films of some substance.
One Hour Photo, starring Robin Williams, debuted Wednesday in limited release. The thriller is the third this year to feature Williams as a bad guy.
Possession, featuring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart, opened with a solid $1.5 million at 270 theaters. The romantic drama will expand in the coming weeks.
The Good Girl soared by 454 percent in its second weekend, from $151,642 to $840,660, as it widened from four theaters to 60 theater. Jennifer Aniston's excellent reviews are clearly luring audiences. Perhaps Matthew Perry might consider asking Aniston for some post-Friends career advice.
The new school year's about to begin, but that won't stop teens from hanging 10 with Michelle Rodriguez.
In Blue Crush, Rodriguez and Kate Bosworth star as Oahu hotel maids who live in a beach shack and love to surf. The best of them is Bosworth's character, who receives an invitation to compete in a usually all-male surfing tournament.
Blue Crush crashes into 3,000-plus theaters at the end of a summer that has seen very little in the way of comedies and dramas aimed specifically at teens. That should give Blue Crush a distinct advantage over this weekend's other wide release, Eddie Murphy's The Adventures of Pluto Nash.
Girls should embrace Blue Crush's empowering themes while boys will doubtless go merely to drool over the film's bikini-clad stars. Women excelling in a traditionally male environment worked for the moronic Coyote Ugly, which demonstrated surprising endurance in summer 2000.
With Rodriguez's star on the rise following The Fast and the Furious and Resident Evil, Blue Crush will likely match Coyote Ugly's $17.3 million opening and $60.7 million total. Such an opening would come as welcome news to director John Stockwell, whose coming-of-age romance crazy/beautiful wooed a mere $16.9 million last summer.
Rodriguez could put up a strong fight against her Fast and the Furious co-star Vin Diesel for box office supremacy if too many teens abandon skydiving for surfboarding. Diesel's extreme sports-driven Bondian spy romp xXxexploded with a loud $44.5 million opening--better than any 007 offerings--and has $58.2 million through Wednesday. In comparison, The Fast and the Furious zoomed off with a $40 million opening and clocked up $54 million by its sixth day in release. Sony Pictures' willingness to pay the up-and-coming Diesel $10 million for xXx now looks like a wise investment. Audiences seem to regard Diesel as part of a new generation of action heroes that includes The Rock.
xXx will likely experience the same second-weekend erosion of 50 percent that dragged down The Fast and the Furious. That also would be in line with the second-weekend declines of Austin Powers in Goldmember and Signs. With a second-weekend haul of around $22 million, and a possible 10-day tally of $85 million, Diesel's spy games should come close to matching The Fast and the Furious' $144.5 million total. So, expect to see Diesel tattooed and ready for action in 2004 with his xXx sequel.
Regardless, neither xXx nor Blue Crush will be able to pump up the box office, which has lagged behind last year's corresponding weekends for one month.
The summer's also over, which means the inevitable dumping of oft-delayed studio flicks for the sole purpose of making a quick killing.
Exhibit No. 1: The Adventures of Pluto Nash. Eddie Murphy's sci-fi spoof got pushed back to 2002 from its original April 6, 2001, berth to avoid conflicting with Dr. Dolittle 2. This lunar version of Casablanca pits Murphy's nightclub owner against the moon's mob.
Murphy's revitalized his career in the mid-1990s when he began churning out family-friendly comedies and lending his voice to animated romps. Pluto Nash's certainly doesn't arrive with the same anticipation as Murphy's Nutty Professor or Dr. Dolittle remakes and sequels. Nor does it bode well that Warner Bros. is releasing Pluto Nash during the dog days of summer, one week after Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, without the benefit of press screenings. A bad sign if ever there was one ...
Still, Murphy should charm enough families to prevent Pluto Nash from becoming a disaster on the scale of 1998's Holy Man ($5.1 million opening, $12 million total). Blasting into 2,320 theaters, Pluto Nash should settle for an opening somewhere between Metro's $11.4 million and Showtime's $15 million. A fast fade awaits, so Pluto Nash will find itself stranded on the moon with about $30 million, or substantially less that the lackluster $37.9 million captured earlier this year by Showtime. Murphy will find greater success in November when he returns with another remake, November's big-screen version of I Spy.
The Cortez siblings of Spy Kids 2 clearly amused many children whose parents thought better of taking them to see xXx. But Spy Kids 2 is going to rank among the long line of this summer's underachieving sequels. Spy Kids 2 midweek opening proved beneficial, as it earned $8.3 million prior to its first weekend haul of $16.7 million, for a total of $25 million. Its strong weekday tallies bring its seven-day total to $32.8 million through Wednesday. Spy Kids, though, managed a superior $26.5 million debut, and ended its first full week with a total $31.2 million. It also reaped a second weekend of $17 million for a $48.2 million.
By matching Spy Kids' 35.6 percent second-weekend decline in business, Spy Kids 2 would only earn $10.8 million, bringing its total to a possible $46 million through Sunday. That wouldn't beat Spy Kids' third weekend take of $12.5 million.
Spy Kids 2 also faces a considerable drop in weekday business as school resumes. Accordingly, Spy Kids 2 is headed toward a $70 million total. That's significantly less than Spy Kids' $112.6 million, but almost enough to justify director Robert Rodriguez's mandate to have Spy Kids 3 in theaters by next summer.
As expected, Pistachio Disguisey and his talent for mimicry proved no match against the Cortez family's flair to save the world from certain disaster. Master of Disguise, Dana Carvey's comeback of sorts, plummeted an appalling 58 percent in its second weekend, from $12.5 million to $5.1 million. The family comedy might have displayed more endurance had it not opened one week before Spy Kids 2. Still, with $26.3 million through Wednesday, Master of Disguise represents Carvey's biggest solo success.
Stuart Little 2 squeaked by with just $2.6 million in its fourth weekend, down 56 percent from $6.1 million. The sequel to the 1999 live-action/animated smash has just $54.5 million through Wednesday, and won't even make half of its predecessor's $140 million total.
Goldmember continues its rapid descent, proving that its second-weekend drop of 57 percent was no fluke. The third Austin Powers farce plunged 58 percent in its third weekend, from $31.1 million to $13 million. Still, Goldmember has $173.6 million through Wednesday vs. $157.7 million that Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me made during the same 20 days in release. Goldmember should muster enough mojo to equal The Spy Who Shagged Me's $206 million total.
Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat also fell by 58 percent in its second weekend, from $7.3 million to $3.1 million. Playing at just 774 theaters, Runteldat isn't shaping up to be a concert hit on the scale of The Original Kings of Comedy ($38.1 million). However, with $14 million through Wednesday, Runteldat will at least make almost double that of Lawrence's last concert film, You So Crazy ($10.1 million).
Mel Gibson should prepare for what could possibly be the biggest hit of his career, as Signs looks certain to comfortably surpass What Women Want's $182.8 million total.
Signs should stabilize in its third weekend after tumbling by 51 percent in its second weekend, from $60.1 million to $29.4 million. Still, that's close to matching Gibson's previous best opening of $34.2 million for 1996's Ransom.
M. Night Shyamalan's chilling tale of a possible alien invasion does not face fresh competition among adults out for a good scare, so a decline of about 45 percent will result in a $16 million third weekend. Signs, with its $128.1 million through Wednesday, has flown past the $94.9 million earned in 2000 by Shyamalan's Unbreakable and now stands as the 12th 2002 new release to make more than $100 million.
The one-two punch of xXx and Signs all but buried Clint Eastwood's Blood Work. The thriller opened with an anemic $7.3 million, which is slightly better than the $5.2 million cobbled together by True Crime. With $9.7 million through Wednesday, Blood Work should exceed True Crime's $16.6 million total, but it will still rank as one of Eastwood's lesser recent efforts.
Road to Perdition continues its slow trek to $100 million. The Tom Hanks gangster thriller has $85.9 million through Wednesday.
America's love affair with the Hanks-backed My Big Fat Greek Wedding continues as the romantic comedy posted a 17th-weekend take of $3.1 million, its best yet. The art house smash, only playing in 723 theaters, has collected $46.5 million through Wednesday.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding, though, might finally have competition in the form of The Good Girl and Possession.
The Good Girl lived up to its name as it made off with a better than good $151,642 at just two theaters over the weekend, for a five-day total of $208,639. The drama, which has secured strong reviews based on Jennifer Aniston's gritty performance as a neglected, married thirtysomething, will expand slowly this month.
Possession, a romantic drama reminiscent of The French Lieutenant's Woman, opens in 200-plus theaters in advance of an Aug. 30 wide release. Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart play present-day scholars who fall in love while investigating the love affair between Victorian-era poets (Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle). Paltrow once again employs her well-honed British accent, while Eckhart receives the rare opportunity to play a romantic lead.
Possession's most intriguing participant is director Neil LaBute, who enjoyed notoriety with the scathing social satires In the Company of Men and Your Friends & Neighbors and then made the switch to black comedy with Nurse Betty. Possession will demonstrate whether LaBute's admirers and detractors choose to embrace his gentler and kinder side.
This summer's spy games take on Olympian proportions this weekend as a muscle-bound extreme sportsman and two pint-sized secret agents separately fight to save the world from the forces of evil.
Together, though, XXX and Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams should drive the masses to movie theaters in extraordinary numbers. If this isn't enough, Clint Eastwood hunts down another serial killer in the crime thriller Blood Work.
XXX, a potential franchise a la James Bond for Sony Pictures, arrives with a big bang courtesy of the long and overwhelming marketing campaign revolving around the tattooed body of superstar-in-the-making Vin Diesel.
The summer's last potential blockbuster, XXX should easily outgun a sequel aimed primarily at children who will return to school later this month. Spy Kids 2 rushes into theaters less than 18 months after its predecessor, but may prove just what children want to see after dismissing Stuart Little 2, The Country Bears, The Powerpuff Girls Movie and Hey Arnold! The Movie.
A few years back, Sony failed in its bid to launch its own James Bond franchise. Hence the blatant 007-ish XXX, the first of what Sony executives anticipate will become a series anchored by a spy with supposedly very little in common with the suave and sophisticated British secret agent. Diesel's Xander Cage is an adrenaline junkie who exploits his passion for extreme sports to tweak the establishment. The prospect of a long prison sentence forces Diesel to become a secret agent under the command of the unbilled Samuel L. Jackson. Diesel's mission: Get the dirt on a group of pierced anarchists operating in Prague, Czech Republic.
The success of this Generation X spy franchise rests on Diesel's very broad shoulders. He reportedly received $10 million for XXX, an indication that Sony executives believe that Diesel was mostly responsible for the runaway smash that was last summer's The Fast and the Furious. He certainly throws himself in the thick of the action, be it tumbling out of airplanes or seducing women in the name of his country. He's aided and abetted by Rob Cohen, who directed The Fast and the Furious. The result is loud, dumb but occasionally fun.
As far as charisma goes, the monosyllabic Diesel comes across as nothing more than a 21st-century Sylvester Stallone. But Diesel will win over men with his devil-may-care attitude and charm women with his considerable sex appeal. Older adults weaned on James Bond might want to see what all the fuss is about while they wait patiently for November's Die Another Day, but they should walk away feeling cheated by XXX's sub-Bondian plot, unworthy villain and unappealing love interest.
The Fast and the Furious roared out of nowhere in June 2001 to score an astounding $40 million opening and a $144.5 million total. That was unexpected given that Diesel's previous two starring efforts were the modest hit Pitch Black ($39.2 million total) and the Wall Street-inspired flop Boiler Room ($16.9 million). Diesel's Knockaround Guys, made in 1999 before he tore up the streets in The Fast and the Furious, has yet to see the light of day.
The acceptance of such serious spy fare as The Sum of All Fears ($117.8 million) and The Bourne Identity ($113.1 million), featuring a new generation of action heroes, bodes extremely well for XXX, which slammed into 3,374 theaters on Friday with an audience-friendly PG-13 rating. XXX should gun down between $45 million and $50 million. The Scorpion King's $36 million opening also showed that audiences wanted to see how well wrestler The Rock could body slam his movie foes. So anything less than an opening better than The Fast and the Furious' $40 million would be a disappointment for XXX.
XXX also has the advantage of being the summer's last big offering. That worked in August 2001 to American Pie 2's advantage. The R-rated sequel opened with $45.1 million and held steady throughout the waning days of summer to tally a $145 million total. XXX, which faces little competition in the coming weeks, will likely enjoy the same fate.
All told, XXX should wind up with $150 million, paving the way for a franchise. It also would help the future of two other unreleased Diesel offerings, the aforementioned Knockaround Guys and an untitled drug thriller formerly known as Diablo. The oft-delayed Knockaround Guys is scheduled for an Oct. 11 release. Diesel's untitled thriller is set for March 7, 2003. Perhaps New Line has seemingly kept both on the shelf in order to make a quick buck or two in the wake of XXX's anticipated success.
The fate of the free world also lies in the hands of two spies certainly not old enough to sit behind the wheel of James Bond's famed Aston Martin.
In Spy Kids 2, the Cortez siblings roam around a monster-infested island in search of a destructive device called the Transmooker. Cortez parents and fellow spies Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino also return.
Bigger isn't always better, as the lackluster returns for Stuart Little 2 demonstrate. Spy Kids 2 must overcome extremely mediocre reviews in order to best its predecessor's $26.5 million opening and $112.6 million total. With children returning to school soon, Dimension Films opened Spy Kids 2 on Wednesday in 3,307 theaters to make the most of what's left of the summer holidays.
Spy Kids 2's $4.6 million Wednesday opening signals a three-day weekend of at least $20 million.
Dimension executives must be confident about Spy Kids 2. They have already ordered director Robert Rodriguez to get Spy Kids 3 into theaters on July 23, 2003. Rodriguez is going to have to pull a Steven Soderbergh, given that he is also working with Banderas on Once Upon a Time in Mexico for a 2003 release.
Banderas needs Spy Kids 2 to make an impact. He followed up Spy Kids with two bombs, Original Sin ($16.5 million) and the barely released The Body ($33,565).
The Cortez siblings will cause some headaches for comeback kid Dana Carvey.
Master of Disguise, which finds Carvey portraying an unlikely hero able to impersonate dozens of people, managed a solid $12.5 million debut last weekend against fellow ex-Saturday Night Live-er Mike Myers' Austin Powers in Goldmember.
That's Carvey's best solo opening, beating Opportunity Knocks' paltry $3.5 million opening in 1990. In fact, Master of Disguise grossed more than the combined openings of Carvey's three 1994 disasters, Clean Slate ($3.1 million), The Road to Wellville ($2.5 million) and Trapped in Paradise ($2.7 million). Carvey obviously made the right decision in persuading another SNL alumnus, Adam Sandler, to executive produce the family-friendly comedy.
This weekend will determine whether Master of Disguise appeals more to parents nostalgic for the days when Carvey ruled SNL or children willing to laugh at some good, clean fun. Spy Kids 2 will likely sap Master of Disguise of its core audience of children, causing a drop of at least 45 percent, or a second-weekend haul of $7 million. Still, with $17.4 million through Wednesday, Master of Disguise already represents Carvey's biggest solo success and should finish with a total close to $40 million.
Young children, though, are being terribly fickle about what they want to see during this second half of the summer.
Stuart Little is no longer the mouse that roared. Stuart Little 2 plunged 42 percent in its third weekend, from $10.6 million to $6.1 million, and has a disappointing $49.6 million through Wednesday. At this rate, Stuart Little 2 will barely make half of its predecessor's $140 million.
Singing bears aren't of much interest, either. The Country Bears collapsed by 41 percent in its second weekend, from $5.3 million to $3.1 million. The Disney theme park attraction spin-off has a tuneless $13.1 million through Wednesday. That's hardly enough to buy a pot or two of honey these days.
Clint Eastwood isn't going quietly into his twilight years. Since 1992's Oscar-winning Unforgiven, Eastwood now more often than not portrays heroic characters coming to terms with old age. Space Cowboys rocketed in 2000 to $90.4 million on the strength of catapulting Eastwood and three fellow grumpy old men into orbit.
In Blood Work, Eastwood is a retired FBI director and the recent recipient of a new heart that came from a murder victim. He's later hired to track down the victim's killer.
Based on a novel by Michael Connelly, and directed by Eastwood, Blood Work isn't likely to distinguish itself from Eastwood's numerous other crime thrillers. That will hurt Blood Work's chances at the box office. In recent years, audiences have embraced Eastwood when he plays atypical roles, such as Space Cowboys' astronaut, The Bridges of Madison County's photographer and Absolute Power's cat burglar.
Blood Work will more likely follow the path of 1999's True Crime, in which Eastwood played a has-been reporter investigating the guilt or innocence of a man on death row. True Crime opened with $5.2 million and amassed just $16.6 million.
Eastwood's one of the few actors of his age who can still sells tickets, so Blood Work could generate a modest $10 million from its 2,525 theaters. That would allow Blood Work to at least double True Crime's lowly total.
Helping Eastwood's cause: Tom Hanks' Road to Perdition is slowing down, having dropped 41 percent in its fourth weekend from $11.1 million to $6.6 million, for a total of $79.3 million through Wednesday.
Still, Eastwood must contend with Signs.
The alien invasion was greeted with a heavenly $60.1 million debut. That's the second-best August opening, behind Rush Hour 2's $67.4 million. It also ranks as the best debut for Mel Gibson, beating Ransom's $34.2 million, and for director M. Night Shyamalan, almost doubling Unbreakable's $30.3 million.
With $82.4 million through Wednesday, Signs has surpassed the $78.1 million total that Gibson's We Were Soldiers captured earlier this year. It should also exceed Unbreakable's $94.9 million total by Friday and cross $100 million by Saturday.
A second weekend haul of between $30 million and $35 million puts Signs on track to make between $185 million and $200 million. Signs would then become Gibson's biggest earner, beating What Women Want's $182.8 million total.
Signs hastened the demise of K-19: The Widowmaker. Harrison Ford's Russian submarine thriller sank a harrowing 61 percent in its third weekend, from $7.2 million to $2.8 million, for a total of $30.7 million through Sunday.
Austin Powers lost some of his mojo in his second weekend, as Goldmember tumbled by 57 percent in its second weekend, which was somewhat steeper than expected after a dazzling $73 million bow. Goldmember's $31.1 million is equal to that of the second weekend of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which fell only 42.8 percent after a $54.9 million debut.
Not that Mike Myers has to worry that much. With $152.9 million through Wednesday, Goldmember is still well ahead of The Spy Who Shagged Me, which had $128.9 million through its 13th day in release. Even with a 50 percent drop in business, Goldmember will earn $15 million in its third weekend. That puts Goldmember on target to surpass The Spy Who Shagged Me's $206 million total by at least $10 million.
Goldmember's presence continued to haunt Men in Black II, which fell 42 percent in its fifth weekend, from $8.4 million to $4.8 million. With $183.9 million through Wednesday, MIBII is heading for a $200 million total.
Mr. Deeds also lost half its audience in its sixth weekend, falling from $4.2 million to $2.1 million. Adam Sandler's remake of the classic Frank Capra comedy Mr. Deeds Goes to Town has $121.5 million through Tuesday.
Martin Lawrence might have endured two consecutive flops in 2001 with What's the Worst that Could Happen? and Black Knight, but he can still hold urban audiences captive with his standup routine.
The slightly confessional Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat opened at a mere 752 theaters with a strong $7.3 million. With $9.3 million through Wednesday, Runteldat is close to exceeding the $10.1 million generated by Lawrence's first concert film, 1994's You So Crazy.
Runteldat did not enjoy as big an opening as The Original Kings of Comedy, which debuted in 2000 with a surprising $11.6 million at 847 theaters. Spike Lee's concert film ended up with a total $38.1 million. Runteldat doesn't have the legs to make it that far, but it should end up with a total between $20 million and $25 million. That, coupled with the forthcoming National Security and Bad Boys 2, should add some luster to Lawrence's tarnished star.
The art house circuit is home to the year's biggest sleeper, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The romantic comedy added 88 theaters in its 16th week, bringing its total to 657 theaters, and relished a second consecutive weekend take of $3 million. It now has $41.4 million through Wednesday, with $60 million a possible total.
Also, in limited release, Steven Soderbergh's Full Frontal was greeted with apathy. Soderbergh's digitally shot comedy, headlined by Julia Roberts, opened with $739,834 at 208 theaters. Seems no one's too thrilled with the prospect of seeing this unofficial sequel to sex, lies, and videotape.
Seems there are plenty of older women eager to pull a Mrs. Robinson this summer. Bebe Neuwirth seduces Aaron Stanford in Tadpole, which has made $721,705 through Sunday after three weekends. Catherine Keener smooches with Jake Gyllenhaal in Lovely & Amazing, which has made $2.4 million through Sunday after six weekends.
Now it's Jennifer Aniston's turn to fool around with Gyllenhaal. The Good Girl opened Wednesday in limited release after it won raves at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Reviewers have already praised Aniston for her performance as a neglected wife willing to bed a younger man.
Aniston's film career has not been too impressive--Picture Perfect ranks as her best effort at $31.3 million. Driven by excellent reviews, The Good Girl could make the jump from the art house circuit to mainstream theaters. If that's the case, Aniston might find it easier to bid farewell to her Friends next year.
Jessica Alba, Annette Bening, Michael Caine, Hugh Jackman and Damon Wayans have been added to the list of presenters for the 59th Golden Globe Awards. The Globes, which honor both film and television work, will be telecast Sunday on NBC from the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
John Malkovich makes his directorial debut at the Sundance Film Festival with The Dancer Upstairs, a film about one man's struggle with his conscience as he moves up the ladder inside a corrupt police department and a morally bankrupt government. The political thriller stars Spanish actor Javier Bardem and Italian actress Laura Morante.
President Bush's weekend fainting episode after a pretzel went down the wrong way has become fodder for late-night comedians. CBS Late Show host David Letterman joked about the president's four-second blackout, adding, "Fortunately, it was the same four seconds that Dick Cheney was conscious." Jay Leno, host of NBC's Tonight Show, quipped, "They ran to get Dick Cheney, and they realized nobody could remember the undisclosed location he was hiding in."
Police in Camdenton, Mo. on Thursday found Nicolas Cage's stolen 1989 Porsche Sportster submerged in the Lake of the Ozarks, The Associated Press reports. The black convertible was stolen from a transport trailer on its way from California to Pennsylvania on Christmas day from a parking lot in Arnold, Mo., just south of St. Louis. A 19-year-old has been charged with first-degree auto tampering in connection with the heist.
TV news anchor Bill O'Reilly, host of the Fox News Channel show The
O'Reilly Factor, told reporters this week that CNN's Paula Zahn was just being politically correct when she expressed offense at a promotion describing her as sexy. "I think Paula should have just said, 'Hey, if somebody thinks I'm sexy, OK, but my primary reason that I'm here is because I know what I'm talking about,'" he said. To say she's offended, O'Reilly continued, is a "bunch of bull.'" Zahn left the Fox News Channel in September to join CNN.
David Bowie checked himself into the Good Samaritan Hospital in Palm Beach, Fla., complaining of a tight chest. The 55-year-old rock legend underwent tests and is receiving treatment for a chest infection. Bowie, a heavy smoker, had been suffering from a bout of flu in the weeks leading to his hospitalization.
Now that he is running both Viacom-owned networks, CBS president Leslie Moonves said on Monday he does not plan on turning UPN into a "CBS 2," Variety reports. Moonves told reporters that UPN "will continue to be an independent brand with a distinct personality and distinct target audiences."
Comedian Denis Leary, whose ABC series The Job is filmed on the streets of Manhattan and in a studio in Queens, says the Big Apple is an important element that gives the show credibility. "I love Seinfeld and it doesn't matter that it wasn't shot in New York, but with NYPD Blue it kind of makes a difference," he said. "I can tell it's on a [studio] lot--no matter how they try to fool you."
Ben Vereen will receive a heroism award from the city of Miami for chasing a suspect after he witnessed a robbery, the AP reports. On Dec. 27, Vereen saw a man knock down a woman pushing a baby stroller and take her purse. Vereen then chased the felon in his pickup truck while calling for help but the culprit got away. The 55-year-old actor is appearing in a production of I'm Not Rappaport at the Coconut Grove Playhouse.
Divorce lawyer Raoul Felder has sued The West Wing actor Ron Silver for an alleged unpaid $258,000 legal bill, AP reports. The Felder, who is currently representing former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in his divorce from Donna Hanover, represented Silver in his 1997 divorce from Self magazine editor Lynne Miller.
The cartoon band Gorillaz has been nominated for six Brit Award--the UK's equivalent of the Grammys--including best group, best album and best single for its hit "Clint Eastwood." Dido, Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue each received four nominations. The awards will be presented at Earl's Court Arena in London on Feb. 20.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats will close its door on May 11, after 9,000 performances in London's West End, the AP reports. Cats, the longest-running musical to close in London, has taken in $197 million at the box office and been seen by more than 8 million people.
ABC has let go New York-based staffers from former hit show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. A network spokesperson explained that the layoffs were part of the natural cycle of a show on hiatus, but ABC's new entertainment president Susan Lynne said Sunday that the damage to Millionaire may be irreparable, PageSix.com reports.