If there's a cinematic alchemy award to be given this year director Bill Condon deserves to take it home after magically turning the tedious Twilight franchise into entertainment gold. 2011's Part 1 was a horror camp romp that turned the supernatural love triangle — the naval gazing trio of Bella Edward and Jacob — on its head. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 continues the madcap exploration of a world populated by vampires and werewolves mining even more comedy thrills and genuine character moments out of conceit than ever before. The film occasionally sidesteps back into Edward and Bella's meandering romance (an evident hurdle of author Stephenie Meyer's source material) but the duller moments are overshadowed by the movie's nimble pace and playful attitude. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will elicit laughs aplenty — but thankfully they're all on purpose.
Part 2 picks up immediately following the events of the first film Bella (Kristen Stewart) having been turned into a vampire by Edward (Robert Pattinson) to save her life after the torturous delivery of her half-human half-vampire child Renesmee. She awakes to discover super senses heightened agility increased strength… and a thirst for blood. One dead cougar later Bella and the gang are able to focus on the real troubles ahead: Renesmee is rapidly growing (think Jack) and vampiric overlords The Volturi perceive her a threat to vampiric secrecy. Knowing the Volturi will travel to Forks WA to kill the young girl (a 10-year-old just a month after being born) The Cullens amass an army of bloodsucking friends to end the oppression once and for all.
Packed with an absurd amount of backstory and mythology-twisting plot points (some vampires can shoot lightning now?) Condon and series screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg mine revel in the beefed up ensemble of Breaking Dawn - Part 2 and thanks to a wildly funny cast it never feels like pointless deviation. Along with the usual suspects Lee Pace adds swagger to the series as a grungy alt-rock vampire Noel Fisher appears as a hilarious over-the-top battle-ready Russian coven member and Michael Sheen returns has Volturi head honcho Aro and steels the show. Flamboyant diabolical and a steady stream of maniacal laughter Sheen owns Condon's high camp vision for Twilight and he lights up the screen. There are a few throw away nations of vampires — the oddly stereotypical Egyptian and Amazonians sects are there mostly there to off-set the extreme whiteness — but the actors involved bring liveliness to a franchise known for being soulless. Even Stewart Pattinson and Taylor Lautner give personal bests in this installment — a scene between Bella and her dad Charlie (Billy Burke) is genuinely heartfelt while Jacob's overprotective hero schtick finally lands.
Whereas Breaking Dawn - Part 1 stuck mostly to the personal story relying on the intimate moments as Bella and Edward took the big plunge into marriage and sex Part 2 paints with broader strokes and Condon has a ball. Delving into the history of the vampires and the vampire world outside Forks is Pandora's Box for the director. One scene where we learn why kids scare the heck of the Volturi captures a scope of medieval epics — along with the bloodshed. Twilight might be known for its sexual moments but Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will go down for its abundance of decapitations. The big set piece in the finale is something to behold both in the craftsmanship of the spectacle and in its bizarre nature.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 had the audience hooting hollering and even gasping as it twisted and turned to the final moments. There's little doubt that even the biggest naysayer of the franchise would do the same. No irony here: the conclusion of Twilight is a blast.
Warning: spoilers for this weekend's The Avengers to follow. See the movie and then read this piece!
Oh Joss Whedon, you really know how to tug at a Marvel movie fan's heartstrings.
In a universe crowded with heroes whose powers range from super human strength to godly weaponry to high tech armor to a smashing inner monster, my favorite character from the Marvel Movie Universe is a suit. Agent Phil Coulson got lucky. He didn't come from the comics, instead a creation by the filmmakers of Iron Man to inject the broader Marvel ideology into that first film. At that time, no one knew if Marvel had a future, if the Avengers Initiative would ever come together in one epic team-up movie. But the hope was there, and it was embodied by Coulson.
When Iron Man became a success and a sequel was put into motion, Coulson's role in the world of the Marvel films became solidified. He was the S.H.I.E.L.D. representative that could pop in at any moment and remind audiences, "hey, we're building to something here!" Thanks to actor Clark Gregg, Coulson also happened a charming and hilarious foil to the larger-than-life heroes at the center of the movies. Whereas Tony Stark is a playboy millionaire, Thor the God of Thunder from the kingdom of Asgard, Agent Coulson is…a guy. Plain, simple and driven. I assume he's from New Jersey, just cause.
Coulson became even more alive and dimensional with his turn in The Avengers. With S.H.I.E.L.D. as a living, breathing entity instead of a set-up after-credits scene cameo, Coulson finally stepped into the action. More importantly, he was our audience proxy, standing shoulder to shoulder with a team of superheroes, even admitting to Captain America that he grew up collecting his trading cards. Coulson was a fan favorite before Avengers, but quick and sharp characterization in Avengers turned him into a fight, a team player, a true friend, and a fan, just like us.
So, of course, Joss Whedon went and killed him.
When Gregg's Coulson went toe-to-toe with Loki for a brief minute, I was cheering. Loudly. But within a few moments, I was frozen, jaw-dropped-on-floor struck with disbelief. Loki's staff, jammed up into Coulson's chest. How could they…? Why would…? Wha—? Who? They killed Phil Coulson!!
I admit these were the flaring emotions of a fan. But all the work to build up ol' Phil into a great member of The Avengers…it just didn't feel right. Sadly, it also made perfect sense. Whedon surfaces something in The Avengers that every other Marvel besides Captain America (which, coincidentally, Whedon had a hand in writing) really failed to deliver: emotional weight. Each character had something at stake — and it wasn't just the end of the world. It was personal. The scene when Coulson enters Tony Stark's penthouse is key. They're chums, palling around and talking about Phil's wife. Phil has a wife? Great — now he has something to lose. Whedon was calculated in bringing Coulson further into the fold. One of the big names could never bite the dust (they have franchises to continue, after all), so he had to develop one of the lesser characters in order to kill them. Agent Phil Coulson was the only choice.
Fanboy grievances aside, the death of Agent Coulson does have a greater impact on the universe: will it now be up to Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury to be the greater thread that ties the movies together? Or has the grouping of heroes in Avengers opened the floodgates for all of them to bleed over into one another's adventures? The possibilities are endless, but unless Coulson returns as a hologram [note: awesome], the Avengers won't be assembling again with a witty, middle-aged Fed by their side. Thankfully, Agent Coulson's run had such an impact, Marvel will keep him around in other mediums: he's already received his own comic book run and will appear on the new cartoon Ultimate Spider-Man. There's also a chance Coulson didn't die, thanks to a throw away line from Maria Hill indicating that the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent "didn't have those [Captain America] cards in his jacket. They were in his locker." A faked death staged by Nick Fury to unite the Avengers? Only in comic books (and their movies).
Either way, Phil, we barely knew you. You went down fighting and with a top-notch zinger, no less. That's the work of a true hero. Agent Coulson, I salute you (and hope crazy logic can bring you back for another round).
Find Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and remember to follow @Hollywood_com!
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Is the "Road to Perdition" paved with gold?
Debuting in a modest 1,790 theaters, the elegant but violent Tom Hanks gangster epic seems doubtful to emerge as the likeliest among this weekend's four new wide releases to vanquish Men in Black II from the top of the box office. MIBII is ensconced at 3,557 theaters, while Reign of Fire burns 2,692 theaters, The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course storms 2,525 theaters and Halloween: Resurrection creeps into 1,749 theaters.
Yet Road to Perdition's future remains assured. Glowing reviews already position Road to Perdition as this year's first Oscar-worthy candidate, allowing distributor DreamWorks to market Hanks' latest as a intelligent and prestigious alternative to the budget-busting adventures of superheroes, spies and law enforcement officers with unusual beats.
Also, the 1930s-era Road to Perdition represents the second film from Sam Mendes, whose American Beauty won five Academy Awards and earned a surprising $130 million. Mendes' brooding mediation on revenge and loyalty isn't quite the Irish Godfather that it seeks to be, but it does boast some truly memorable moments, including a bloody showdown in the pouring rain and gripping performances from Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law. Road to Perdition should satiate those who have waited (and waited, and waited) for Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York, which ironically was scheduled to premiere this weekend before it was delayed to Christmas.
Consequently, Road to Perdition should enjoy a long and healthy run throughout the second half of the summer, albeit without the benefit of a smash opening a la Hanks' Saving Private Ryan ($30.5 million) and Cast Away ($28.8 million). Expect an opening similar to that of The Green Mile's $18 million.
Hanks certainly does not fall into the category of an action hero, but audiences accepted him taking up arms for Steven Spielberg's uncompromising World War II Saving Private Ryan. In the 1930s-set Road to Perdition, Hanks' cause is less noble. A hit man working for Irish mobster Newman, Hanks finds himself on the run following the murder of his wife Jennifer Jason Leigh and their youngest son. Hanks seeks retribution while trying to protect his oldest son, whose curiosity about Hanks' profession led to the tragic turn of events.
Hanks remains a sure thing precisely because audiences welcome and enjoy the risks he takes. But the sight of Hanks out for revenge and killing in cold blood might alienate those who prefer him to undertake infinitively more heroic endeavors. Thus Road to Perdition won't come close to matching the terrific totals of Cast Away ($233.6 million) and Saving Private Ryan ($216.3 million). Instead, Hanks' travels should reap a total somewhere between Sleepless in Seattle's $126.6 million and The Green Mile's $136.8 million.
Regardless, Hanks can sleep well knowing that he should score his 12th $100 million hit.
Slaying dragons might prove more appealing than kicking alien butt.
Reign of Fire, which imagines a future overrun by dragons with blazing tempers, poses the greatest challenge to MIBII. Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey, both beefed up and ready to rumble, join forces to wipe out the dragons that reawake to leave the world scorched and barren. Their destination is London, home to the dragon that started it all.
More Alien3 than Independence Day, Reign of Fire requires its heroes to make do with little technology and weaponry to fight their flying, fire-breathing foe. Directed by The X-Files' Rob Bowman, Reign of Fire never quite lives up to its potential despite its marvelous special effects and tense confrontations between man and the supposedly mythical beasts. Reign of Fire begs for the mayhem and destruction that turned Independence Day into a summer smash.
Without the prospect of witnessing London burning, Reign of Fire will do only marginally better than 1996's Dragonheart ($15 million opening, $51.3 million total). Reign of Fire should debut with at least $20 million, but flame out rapidly with about $60 million. Audiences also might find themselves distracted by the giant spiders of Eight Legged Freaks, which will open Wednesday.
The further exploits of Michael Myers also could keep some young men away from Reign of Fire.
Halloween: Resurrection, the eighth in the series chronicling the masked serial killer's murderous rampage, arrives three months before Oct. 31. That's not unusual. The last sequel, Halloween: H20, debuted during the dog days of summer 1998.
Those keeping score may remember that Jamie Lee Curtis decapitated Myers at the end of H20. How Myers returns to life--without so much as a headache--remains a mystery, since Dimension Films failed to screen Resurrection, once slated for a Sept. 21, 2001, release, for critics. All indications are that this film is more trick than treat.
H20 breathed new life into the series by pitting Curtis against Myers for the first time since 1982's Halloween II. With the aid of emerging stars Josh Hartnett and Michelle Williams, H20 sliced up a $16.1 million opening and a $55 million total. In comparison, the preceding sequel Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers only managed a total $15 million in September 1995.
Resurrection can't duplicate the success of H20, which capitalized heartily on Curtis' presence. Curtis reportedly only makes a cameo at the beginning of Resurrection. Her absence will surely hurt when the remainder of the disparate cast includes model Tyra Banks and rapper Busta Rhymes.
With the exception of die-hard Friday the 13th fans, audiences thoroughly rejected Jason X and its change in scenery. That doesn't bode well for an aging franchise that thrives on its audience's nostalgia for a time when serial killers merely hacked their victims to pieces.
With luck, Resurrection could hack its way to a $10 million opening, but Myers will run out of warm bodies to stalk when the film hits a $25 million total. Then expect to see Resurrection in your local video stores long before you stock up on Halloween candy.
Steve Irwin, either the bravest or dumbest man on TV depending upon how you feel about interacting with reptiles of all shapes and sizes, has gone Hollywood.
Irwin and wife Terri leave the confines of cable TV's Animal Planet for The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, a family friendly adventure that seeks nothing more than exploit the boisterous Aussie's household popularity.
Unfortunately, The Crocodile Hunter is just as ill conceived as NBC's disastrous attempt to turn celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse into a TV sitcom star. The folks at MGM, who desperately need a hit after Hart's War, Rollerball and Windtalkers, should have known better. Their previous attempt to turn a minor celebrity into a film star, in that case daredevil Super Dave Osborne, resulted in the direct-to-video The Extreme Adventures of Super Dave.
The Crocodile Hunter also would rank as the year's worst film thus far were it not for its utter lack of ambition and originality. It's nothing more than an extension of TV show, with Irwin spending much of his time addressing the audience while tussling with crocodiles, snakes and spiders. The remainder of the film involves the plodding search for a missing U.S. satellite beacon. Needless to say, the beacon ends up in the stomach of one very big crocodile. Adding insult to injury, the film even features an appalling reworking of Elton John's Crocodile Rock by the Baha Men.
It remains a mystery as to who will pay to see Irwin do what he already does on cable TV. Part of the TV show's popularity lies with the vicarious thrill of watching Irwin pry open the jaws of a rather irate crocodile or wrapping a poisonous snake around his stocky frame. Staging such sequences for a film eliminates the element of danger, which will likely keep audiences home, glued to Animal Planet. Accordingly, The Crocodile Hunter might crack $5 million during its opening weekend, but then end up with a toothless $15 million total.
Parents also have elected against taking their children to see such TV-inspired films such as Hey Arnold! The Movie ($10.7 million through Sunday) and The Powerpuff Girls Movie ($7.5 million through Wednesday). Scooby-Doo, with $140.3 million through Wednesday, remains the exception. The canine sleuth looks set to bark up a total $160 million.
Despite being confronted by four new releases, MIBII should easily remain as the nation's top film for a second weekend. The Men in Black sequel set off fireworks during the July Fourth holiday with a weekend haul of $52.1 million and five-day weekend total of $87.2 million. MIBII now holds the record for the best July Fourth holiday opening. It has $103.9 million through Wednesday.
MIBII enjoyed a slightly better opening than its predecessor, which debuted during the July Fourth holiday in 1997 with $51 million in its first weekend for a five-day total of $84.1 million. That doesn't mean alienbusters Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith should expect the script to a third Men in Black in the mail just yet. MIBII opened in 300-plus more theaters. Ticket prices also are higher today than they were in 1997. Consequently, Men in Black posted a $16,910 per theater average while MIBII made do with a per theater average of $14,661.
Bad reviews and tremendous competition will cause MIBII to drop more than the 41.13 percent tumble to $30 million that Men in Black experienced in its second weekend. MIBII will likely mirror Scooby-Doo's second weekend erosion of 54.8 percent, from $54.1 million to $24.4 million. If this is the case, MIBII will likely end up with a total closer to $200 million than the original's $250.1 million.
And on the subject of lowered expectations, Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones continues to creep toward $300 million. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace earned $431 million in 1999. With $291.2 million through Sunday, Attack of the Clones finally surpassed The Empire Strikes Back's $290.2 million total.
Attack of the Clones was tipped to be the year's highest-grossing film. That honor remains with Spider-Man, which on Sunday became only the fifth film to break $400 million domestically.
Lilo & Stitch and Minority Report both cracked $100 million this past week.
Disney's Lilo & Stitch, which has $108.6 million through Wednesday, is lagging behind Tarzan, which had $115.9 million after 20 days in wide release. After a third weekend of $12.6 million, Lilo & Stitch looks set for a total surpassing Dinosaur's $137.7 million.
Minority Report has $101.5 million through Wednesday. Steven Spielberg's futuristic thriller dropped 42 percent in its third weekend, from $21.5 million to $12.6 million. MIBII no doubt appealed more to those looking for a less ominous sci-fi extravaganza. Minority Report has bested Tom Cruise's last effort, Vanilla Sky ($100.6 million), and will surpass Interview with the Vampire ($105.2 million) by Saturday. Minority Report will likely come to rest close to A Few Good Men's $141.3 million total.
Fighting for the same audience of young men as MIBII, Mr. Deeds saw its good fortune drop 50 percent in its second weekend, from $37.1 million to $18.4 million. Adam Sandler's remake Frank Capra's classic comedy Mr. Deeds Goes to Town has $81 million through Wednesday and has already exceeded The Wedding Singer's $80.2 million total. Mr. Deeds isn't quite keeping up with Big Daddy ($97.3 million) or The Waterboy ($83.2 million), both of which has made more money in their first 13 days. Mr. Deeds should, however, amass a wealthy $125 million.
MIBII didn't deter audiences from seeking one of July Fourth's other new attraction, Like Mike. The kids-oriented basketball fantasy, starring Lil' Bow Wow, scored a solid $12.1 million over the weekend for a July Fourth holiday five-day total of $19 million. With $23.5 million through Wednesday, Like Mike isn't destined for MVP-type numbers, but it looks like a $50 million slam-dunk for the teen rapper.
Women turned out in force for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which jumped a joyful 25 percent in its 12th weekend from $2 million to $2.5 million. The romantic comedy only played in an additional six theaters, bringing its theater count to 499. My Big Fat Greek Wedding has a blissful $23.5 million through Sunday. In contrast, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood fell 31 percent, from $4 million to $2.8 million, but has $62.6 million through Tuesday. That bests star Sandra Bullock's Hope Floats ($60.1 million).
Playing spies games is proving lucrative for pals Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Affleck's turn as CIA analyst Jack Ryan in The Sum of All Fears has $112.7 million through Wednesday. It's slowly but surely posing a challenge to Clear and Present Danger's $122 million and The Hunt for Red October's $120.7 million totals.
Then there's the curious case of Damon's amnesiac CIA operative Jason Bourne. The Bourne Identity slid by a mere 18 percent in its fourth weekend, from $11.1 to $9.1 million. The Sum of All Fears managed just $7.7 million in its fourth weekend. With $92.2 million through Wednesday, The Bourne Identity is displaying surprising endurance and could become this weekend the eighth new release to break $100 million in 2002. More impressively, Jason Bourne should have Jack Ryan watching over his shoulder in the event of a hostile takeover.