Posts Tagged ‘Robin Hood’

Weekend Box Office Report — December 5

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

The Warrior’s Weigh

The first weekend of December has the ignominious tradition of being one of the lowest moviegoing periods of the year. This year is no exception with but a single new wide release and holdover titles generally experiencing declines of more than 50%.

The newcomer arrived from the re-constituted Relativity Media with the martial arts actioner The Warrior’s Way. It barely squeaked into the top 10 with an estimated $3 million. Industry trackers hadn’t expected much for the picture but even their estimates were pegged significantly higher at roughly $5 million.

The frame leader was the animated Tangled with an estimated $21.5 million with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 taking the consolation prize with $16.9 million. The rest of the holdovers were indeed the deathly hallows.

However, there were a couple of spectacular exclusive debuts. The controversial and intense drama Black Swan bowed to $1.4 million, which translated into a jaw dropping per engagement average of $76,670. And the left-for-dead black comedy I Love You Phillip Morris hit the target with $109,000 from six locations and an $18,200 average. Also encouraging was the two-screen bow of the ironically titled All Good Things with $37,500.

The rest of the new niche crowd ranged from fair to poor including several new films on the Indian circuit, the independent Night Catches Us and the documentary Bhutto.

All added up, revenues amounted to about $86 million and a 54% drop from the weekend slice of Thanksgiving. It was also off 15% from the 2009 edition when the top new entry was third-ranked Brothers with $9.5 million. The 2009 leader with $20 million was The Blind Side.

Domestic box office should push past $10 billion next weekend and register a slight gain for the year when the dust settles in 26 days. It also unquestionably marks another year of theatrical admission declines; likely between 5% and 7%.

As to award’s contenders, it remains anyone’s game and last week’s announcement of honors from the National Board of Review provided scant indication of what’s to follow from major critical groups or the Hollywood Foreign Press. Apart from James L. Brooks’ How Do You Know, the anticipated upcoming releases have been seen and left prognosticators fumbling to identify leaders in any of the talent categories.


Weekend Estimates – December 3-5, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Tangled BV 21.5 (5,970) -56% 3603 96.5
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hollows, Part 1* WB 16.9 (4,090) -66% 4125 244.4
Burlesque Sony 6.1 (2,020) -49% 3037 27
Unstoppable Fox 6.1 (1,930) -47% 3152 68.9
Love and Other Drugs Fox 5.7 (2,310) -42% 2458 22.6
Megamind Par 4.9 (1,550) -61% 3173 136.6
Due Date WB 4.2 (1,720) -41% 2450 91
Faster CBS 3.8 (1,550) -55% 2470 18.1
The Warrior’s Way Relativity 3.0 (1,870) NEW 1622 3
The Next Three Days Lionsgate 2.6 (1,150) -45% 2236 18.3
Morning Glory Par 1.7 (760) -56% 2263 29.1
127 Hours Fox Searchlight 1.6 (3,790) -4% 433 6.6
Black Swan Fox Searchlight 1.4 (76,670) NEW 18 1.4
Fair Game Summit 1.0 (2,320) -27% 436 7.3
Red Summit .75 (960) -45% 779 87.2
For Colored Girls … Lionsgate .45 (930) -67% 485 37.3
Lance et compte Seville .43 (4,480) -31% 96 1.3
Skyline Uni/Alliance .42 (730) -63% 578 20.9
The Social Network Sony .41 (1,580) -42% 260 91
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. .32 (53,000) -10% 6 0.8
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $81.25
% Change (Last Year) -15%
% Change (Last Week) -54%
Also debuting/expanding
I Love You Phillip Morris Roadside .11 (18,200) 6 0.11
Raktacharitra 2 Viva/Happy 94,200 (4,100) 23 0.09
Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey Viva 65,300 (960) 68 0.07
Nutcracker 3D FreeStyle 45,700 (1,040) -31% 44 0.14
Made in Dagenham Sony Classics 39,600 (3,600) -37% 11 0.18
All Good Things Magnolia 37,500 (18,750) 2 0.04
Dead Awake New Film 31,400 (570) 55 0.03
Mar Jawan Gur Khake Punjabi 18,800 (6,270) 3 0.02
Night Catches Us Magnolia 12,100 (3,020) 4 0.01
Bhutto First Run 7,800 (3,900) 2 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Dec. 2, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (27) 1792.9 18.40%
Paramount (18) 1609.2 16.50%
Fox (18) 1371.7 14.00%
Buena Vista (16) 1252.3 12.80%
Sony (24) 1185.4 12.10%
Universal (18) 797.2 8.20%
Summit (11) 517.9 5.30%
Lionsgate (15) 512.4 5.20%
Fox Searchlight (7) 84.7 0.90%
Overture (7) 81.9 0.80%
Focus (7) 75.2 0.80%
CBS (3) 64.2 0.70%
Weinstein Co. (8) 63.1 0.70%
Sony Classics (22) 58.7 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.50%
Other * (301) 246.6 2.50%
9763.8 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Global Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Dec. 2, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 1,955,694,414
Toy Story 3 BV 1,065,128,004
Alice in Wonderland BV 1,024,537,295
Inception WB 840,550,911
Shrek Forever After Par 738,351,966
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 699,325,617
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 WB 634,033,738
Iron Man 2 Par 622,718,600
Despicable Me Uni 534,415,944
How to Train Your Dragon Par 495,921,283
Clash of the Titans WB 489,778,913
Sherlock Holmes * WB 367,796,599
The Karate Kid Sony 359,429,551
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time BV 335,816,141
The Last Airbender Par 319,062,129
Robin Hood Uni 312,207,159
Shutter Island Par 301,977,955
Sex and the City 2 WB 301,158,934
Salt Sony 293,955,694
Resident Evil: Afterlife Sony/Alliance 292,972,689
The Expendables Lionsgate 272,550,235
Grown Ups Sony 271,417,359
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Fox 264,341,533
Knight and Day Fox 261,206,060
Percy Jackson & the Olympians Fox 226,497,298
* does not include 2009 box office

Weekend Box Office Report — November 21

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

Harry and the Deathly Swallows … Gulp!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 ascended to an estimated $126.2 million and corralled more than 60% of weekend ticket sales. Comparatively speaking the remaining films in the multiplex had to settle for chump change, including the bow of the thriller The Next Three Days which slotted fifth with $6.7 million.

The session also included the new Bollywood release Guzaarish, which garnered a better than respectable $423,000 at 108 venues. Among the few exclusive bows both the British import Made in Dagenham and France’s White Material were just OK with respective openings of $39,300 and $35,800, each playing on three screens.

It was the biggest opening yet for a Harry Potter film but while the juggernaut provided a big box office boost from last weekend it was insufficient to stave off a decline from 2009.

Expectations were high for the first installment of the last chapter of the Potter franchise. Advance sales and online tracking anticipated a $100 million debut and that number expanded following word of advance Thursday midnight screenings estimated at $24 million. Large format engagements were estimated at $12.4 million and if that number holds up it will be a record.

Internationally the early estimates are roughly $205 million from 54 markets. It includes all-time records in the U.K. and Russia and otherwise just sensational debuts elsewhere. The final, final Potter putter is schedule for July 2011.

On a decidedly downbeat note, The Next Three Days came in well below tracking that suggested a $10 million launch. The film also received a drubbing from critics.

Weekend revenues lurched toward $200 million, which translated into a 64% hike from seven days back. It was however 25% behind the 2009 slate led by the second installment of Twilight (New Moon), which bowed bitingly to $142.8 million with the unexpectedly $34.1 million potency of The Blind Side right behind it.

The contender’s roster failed to see any additional dynamos this weekend and the titles already in the marketplace were finding the Darwinian aspect of the exercise unrelenting. Both Fair Game and 127 Hours added a significant number of playdates with the latter continuing to maintain a hefty $8,330 engagement average. The other surprise in the mix is the continuing stamina of the non-fiction Inside Job that’s racked up $2.2 million to date.


Weekend Estimates – November 19-21, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1* WB 126.2 (30,600) NEW 4125 126.2
Megamind Par 16.2 (4,280) -45% 3779 109.5
Unstoppable Fox 13.0 (4,060) -43% 3207 41.9
Due Date WB 8.9 (2,760) -42% 3229 72.4
The Next Three Days Lionsgate 6.7 (2,590) NEW 2564 6.7
Morning Glory Par 5.2 (2,050) -43% 2544 19.8
Skyline Uni/Alliance 3.4 (1,170) -71% 2883 17.6
Summit 2.4 (1,190) -51% 2034 83.5
For Colored Girls … Lionsgate 2.3 (1,920) -64% 1216 34.5
Fair Game Summit 1.4 (3,730) 41% 386 3.7
Secretariat BV 1.0 (970) -56% 1010 56.4
Paranormal Activity 2 Par .93 (840) -69% 1101 83.6
The Social Network Sony .91 (1,590) -49% 571 89.2
127 Hours Searchlight .90 (8,330) 104% 108 1.9
Saw 3D Lionsgate .82 (1,020) -71% 806 45.3
Jackass 3D Par .72 (1,050) -68% 687 116.1
Life As We Know It WB .52 (930) -50% 558 51.6
Guzaarish UTV .42 (3,910) NEW 108 0.42
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Music Box/Alliance .41 (2,180) -22% 188 3.5
Inside Job Sony Classics .37 (1,770) -22% 211 2.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $191.50
% Change (Last Year) -25%
% Change (Last Week) 64%
Also debuting/expanding
Today’s Special Reliance 88,400 (1,670) 53 0.09
Made in Dagenham Sony Classics 39,300 (13,100) 3 0.04
White Material IFC 35,800 (11,930) 3 0.04
Queen of the Lot Rainbow 16,400 (2,730) 6 0.02
Copacabana Seville 14,100 (2,010) 7 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Nov. 18, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Paramount (18) 1555.1 16.80%
Warner Bros. (26) 1538.8 16.70%
Fox (17) 1320.7 14.30%
Buena Vista (15) 1173.4 12.70%
Sony (23) 1160.3 12.60%
Universal (18) 790.4 8.60%
Summit (11) 508.5 5.50%
Lionsgate (14) 490.6 5.30%
Overture (7) 81.7 0.90%
Fox Searchlight (7) 80.3 0.90%
Focus (7) 75.1 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (7) 62.5 0.70%
Sony Classics (21) 57.3 0.60%
MGM (1) 51.2 0.50%
CBS (2) 50 0.50%
Other * (288) 240.7 2.60%
9236.6 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Domestic Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Nov. 18, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 476,883,415
Toy Story 3 BV 414,681,777
Alice in Wonderland BV 334,191,110
Iron Man 2 Par 312,445,596
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 300,551,386
Inception WB 291,914,445
Despicable Me Uni 248,900,040
Shrek Forever After Par 238,667,087
How to Train Your Dragon Par 218,685,707
The Karate Kid Sony 176,797,997
Clash of the Titans WB 163,214,888
Grown Ups Sony 162,147,232
The Last Airbender Par 131,733,601
Shutter Island Par 128,051,522
The Other Guy Sony 119,256,755
Salt Sony 118,485,665
Jackass 3D Par 115,357,091
Valentine’s Day WB 110,509,442
Sherlock Holmes * WB 106,967,985
Robin Hood Uni 105,425,146
* does not include 2009 box office

Weekend Box Office Report – October 24

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Back to Paranormal

Paranormal Activity 2 exceeded pundit expectation (though not necessarily fans) with an estimated $41.6 million to lead weekend movie ticket sales. The session’s only other national bow was Hereafter, which shot up to $11.9 million following last weekend’s limited opener.

Niche and regional bows included a solid $212,000 (in Hindi and Telegu versions) bow for the Indian crime saga Rakhtcharitra. Fans won’t have to wait long for its second part conclusion that’s scheduled for late November. Meanwhile up in Canada the Toronto fest curtain raiser Score: A Hockey Musical failed to live up to its name with a discordant $143,000 from 127 rinks.

Exclusives included good though unsensational debuts that included non-fiction Boxing Gym with a $6,100 TKO in its solo bout and Taqwacores — the tale of an Islamic rock band — grossing $5,500 also in a single outing.

Though there was a marginal dip from last weekend’s box office, the frame saw its first uptick from 2009 in a month with industry mavens already predicting expanded revenues through the end of the year.

Critical response to sleeper sensation Paranormal Activity 2 was at best tepid with the more negative reviews viewing it as a cynical rehash of its inspiration. Nonetheless avids were cueing up to provide Thursday midnight shows a record preview for an R-rated film. It lost traction as the weekend proceeded but the fast start was sufficient to speed past tracking that suggested an opening salvo of not much more than $30 million.

Exit polls for both Paranormal Activity 2 and Hereafter were disappointing. The latter film pretty much brought in the anticipated older crowd and filmmaker Clint Eastwood’s films have a history of hanging in for longer than typical runs and much higher multiples than is the industry norm. Still, this yarn could well stray from that trend.

Weekend revenues amassed roughly $130 million in torn ducats. It represented a slight 2% dip from seven days back but the unexpected Paranormal Activity 2 and overall strong holdovers translated into a 13% box office boost from 2009. A year ago the first Paranormal Activity (in its initial wide weekend) led with $21.1 million followed by Saw VI and Where the Wild Things Are with respective tallies of $14.1 million and $14 million.

With the exception of Waiting for “Superman” it’s been a brutal season for Oscar hopefuls trying to set an early footprint on the awards landscape. Granted, very few have received a wholehearted critical embrace, but even by niche standards the likes of Nowhere Boy, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and Jack Goes Boating among others have been comparative under-performers when measured against past films that have employed this tactic.


Weekend Estimates – October 22-24, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Paranormal Activity 2 Par 41.6 (12,930) New 3216 41.6
Jackass 3D Par 21.5 (6,920) -57% 3111 87.1
Red Summit 15.1 (4,620) -31% 3273 43.6
Hereafter WB 11.9 (5,450) 2175 12.2
The Social Network Sony 7.2 (2,450) -31% 2921 72.8
Secretariat BV 6.9 (2,210) -26% 3108 37.3
Life As We Know It WB 6.1 (2,010) -32% 3019 37.5
Legend of the Guardians WB 3.1 (1,390) -26% 2236 50.1
The Town WB 2.7 (1,390) -33% 1918 84.6
Easy A Sony 1.7 (1,050) -35% 1632 54.7
Wal Street: Money Never Sleeps Fox 1.2 (960) -49% 1255 50
My Soul to Take Uni/Alliance 1.0 (600) -68% 1689 13.9
Waiting for “Superman” Par Vantage .76 (2,620) 2% 290 3.7
Alpha and Omega Lionsgate .71 (980) -14% 727 23.5
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Focus .66 (1,180) -46% 560 5.1
Devil Uni .63 (980) -35% 642 32.4
You Again BV .61 (680) -50% 901 24
N Secure FreeStyle .53 (1,190) -55% 445 1.9
Toy Story 3 BV .42 (1,211) -21% 350 413.4
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Sony Classics .40 (1,060) 46% 381 1.8
Case 39 Par Vantage .38 (530) -69% 721 12.7
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $123.90
% Change (Last Year) 13%
% Change (Last Week) -2%
Also debuting/expanding
Stone Overture .34 (3,030) 49% 113 0.76
Conviction Fox Searchlight .30 (5,420) 192% 55 0.34
Rakhtcharitra Viva/Happy .21 (6,230) 34 0.21
Nowhere Boy Weinstein Co. .21 (870) -39% 215 0.76
Score: A Hockey Musical Mongrel .14 (1,130) 127 0.14
Jhootha Hi Sahi Viva 64,700 (1,350) 48 0.06
My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend Fiftyfilms 10,300 (5,150) 2 0.01
Boxing Gym Zipporah 6,100 (6,100) 1 0.01
Taqwacores Rumanni 5,500 (5,500) 1 0.01
Inhale IFC 5,600 (2,800) 2 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Oct. 21, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (25) 1403.9 16.30%
Paramount (15) 1310.6 15.30%
Fox (16) 1287.9 15.00%
Buena Vista (15) 1144.7 13.30%
Sony (23) 1129.9 13.20%
Universal (17) 771.4 9.00%
Summit (10) 453.6 5.30%
Lionsgate (12) 411.5 4.80%
Overture (7) 79.7 0.90%
Focus (7) 73.2 0.90%
Fox Searchlight (6) 72.7 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (7) 61.6 0.70%
Sony Classics (21) 53.7 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.60%
CBS (2) 50 0.60%
Other * (271) 226.9 2.70%
8581.7 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Domestic Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Oct. 21, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 476,726,209
Toy Story 3 BV 413,013,123
Alice in Wonderland BV 334,191,110
Iron Man 2 Par 312,445,596
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 300,531,751
Inception WB 289,881,124
Despicable Me Uni 247,148,995
Shrek Forever After Par 238,667,087
How to Train Your Dragon Par 218,685,707
The Karate Kid Sony 176,797,997
Clash of the Titans WB 163,214,888
Grown Ups Sony 161,942,598
The Last Airbender Par 131,733,601
Shutter Island Par 128,051,522
The Other Guy Sony 118,236,912
Salt Sony 118,229,865
Valentine’s Day WB 110,509,442
Sherlock Holmes * WB 106,967,985
Robin Hood Uni 105,425,146
The Expendables Lions Gate 103,068,524
* does not include 2009 box office

DVD Wrap: Robin Hood, (Untitled), Good, Experiment, Stripped Naked … and more

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Just Wright

Queen Latifah
wants us to think of Just Wright as a modern version of Cinderella, this time staged against a backdrop of the National Basketball Association. It’s not a bad comparison, really, even if director Sanaa Hamri and writer Michael Elliot don’t seem particularly interested in repeating any of that classic fairytale’s basic conceits.

For one thing, Latifah’s physical therapist, Leslie Wright, isn’t being held against her will in a broom closet, while her ugly sisters compete for the hand of the Grand Duke, represented here by the wounded NBA superstar, Scott McKnight (Common). Indeed, Leslie mostly approves of the growing relationship between the player and her svelte and gorgeous best friend, Morgan (Paula Patton).

It’s only when Morgan turns her back on Scott, whose NBA is endangered by a torn ACL, that Leslie acts on her heart’s initial stirrings. Even then, the not-so-ugly duckling isn’t safe from the tyranny of great beauty and its impact on a man’s libido. With nary a glass slipper or a pumpkin coach in sight, however, Just Wright manages to arrive at the same destination as every other fairytale that ends with a “happily ever after.” It’s getting to this inevitable point that makes “Just Wright” enjoyable. The romantic aspects of the story evolve naturally, over a logical period of time, as does the revelation of Morgan’s less-attractive qualities.

The story also benefits from the cooperation afforded it by the NBA. McKnight plays for a real NBA team, the Nets, and is surrounded by teammates and opponents that include Dwight Howard, Dwayne Wade, Rashard Lewis, Bobby Simmons Jr., Jalen Rose, Rajon Rondo and Elton Brand, as well as analysts Marv Albert, Mike Fratello, Stuart Scott and Kenny Smith. Before entering the hip-hop arena, Common was a ball boy for the Chicago Bulls, and his dad played in the ABA, so he looks the part, too. That’s a long way of saying that guys won’t hate watching “Just Wright” as much as they do other romances and rom-coms. And, women won’t mind it at all. The extras add the featurettes, The One You Can’t Live Without and Common on the Fast Break, and a gag reel.


Robin Hood: Two-Disc Unrated Director’s Cut

Over the course of the last 102 years, or, roughly, the entire history of the cinema, Robin Hood has appeared as a character in movies, television and other visual media more than 102 times. This year’s version, with one more incarnation still on the drawing board, was portrayed by Russell Crowe. He plays Robin Longstride, an ace archer who’s just returned to England after 10 years in the Holylands, picking off Muslims who simply had the audacity to live in the same zipcode Jesus Christ once did.

The killing doesn’t stop there, however. On the way home, King Richard the Lionheart is struck down while laying siege to a French castle and another group of his men is ambushed on a forest road leading to the English Channel. Longstride is entrusted with returning the Richard’s crown to Eleanor of Aquitaine, who quickly bestows it on her evil and greedy son, Prince John. If director Ridley Scott and principal screenwriter Brian Helgeland had presented this alternative version of history to their college professors, they likely would have flunked the course. Hollywood studios grade on a very different curve, however.

That task accomplished, Longstride is further required to return a sword owned by Sir Robert Loxley, a victim of the ambush, to his father (Max von Sydow) and wife, Marion (Cate Blanchett). In desperate financial straits, they ask Longstride to stick around and assume the identity of Sir Robert. Confused, yet?

Still not the Robin Hood of legend and the movie’s title, Longstride/Loxley declares war on King John (Oscar Isaac), the Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen) and the double-dealing, Godfrey (Mark Strong), who’s secretly working for France’s King Philip. From here on in, “Robin Hood” is all action, all the time. Arrows rain from the sky like hailstones and crimson goo gushes from the severed arteries of hundreds of extras in chain mail. A French invasion is repelled and, despite his heroism in the clash, King John declares Robin Public Enemy No. 1 and the proposed Magna Carta null and void.

Joining Robin in his guerrilla pursuit of fair treatment for all Brits are Merry Men-to-be Friar Tuck (Mark Addy), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes), Little John (Kevin Durand) and Allan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle). The movie pretty much ends there, making it a prequel to the future adventures of Robin Longstride/Loxley/Hood. That was the idea, anyway. Inconveniently, Robin Hood struggled to break the $100 million barrier – half its reported production budget – effectively putting plans for similarly expensive follow-ups on hold.

What happened? Robin Hood offered more than its fair share of popcorn value, after all. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Crowe, at 46, already was the oldest actor to play Hood, eclipsing even Sean Connery. Younger audiences might have preferred someone – Justin Bieber or one of the Jonases — closer to their age to play the hero. Older folks might have already gotten the fill of medieval Britain in excellent BBC/BBC America series of the same title, as well as the historical mini-series, The Tudors and The Pillars of the Earth, which, in addition to blood, archery and royal intrigue, also benefitted from nudity.

Even so, Robin Hood is sufficiently entertaining to recommend it to homebound audiences, especially in Blu-ray. The bonus package adds a digital copy of the director’s cut, deleted scenes and commentary, the excellent featurettes Rise and Rise Again: Making Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood and The Art of Nottingham,” and a “marketing archive.”

After his screenplay for L.A. Confidential was honored with an Academy Award, Helgeland was pretty much able to write his own ticket in Hollywood, whether it came to having his scripts green-lit or being a go-to guy when other people’s work needed a re-write. He also was allowed to direct his own screenplays, as he did with A Knight’s Tale, set in roughly the same period as Robin Hood. Like Knight’s,” The Order starred Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon and Mark Addy.

Unlike A Knight’s Tale, the 2003 horror-genre dud couldn’t even convince Ledger’s growing legion of female fans to buy a ticket.  The sight of the Aussie hunk in a cleric’s collar couldn’t have helped at the box office. The Order (a.k.a., “The Sin Eater”) describes the behavior of an obscure collection of priests fixated on ancient texts. Ledger’s Father Alex gets involved after he learns of the death – purportedly of suicide – of his mentor.

In Rome, Alex determines that the older priest had come into contact with a “sin eater.” Such people are able to absorb the sins of their clients/victims, allowing them to be ushered directly into heaven. This one appears to be close to 2,000 years old and in need of a replacement not only retire, but also absorb the sins flowing through his blood stream. While not a bad concept, the special visual effects created to mimic the exchange of sins looked ridiculous. It reminded no one of the The Exorcist or The Omen, and died a quick death.


Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue: Blu-ray

The third installment of Disney’s popular animated prequel franchise, Tinker Bell, finds the headstrong fairy in yet another world of trouble, this time among humanoids encroaching on the enchanted summertime meadows of Victorian England. While poking her cute little nose into places it clearly doesn’t belong, Tinker Bell (voiced by Mae Whitman) is captured by the daughter of a scientist who collects butterflies and puts their framed carcasses on display on the walls of his laboratory.

The horror … The lepidopterist and his daughter (Michael Sheen and Lauren Mote) represent the time-honored clash of ideals in family-oriented cinema: the rational adult mind vs. the irrational imagination of a child. To prove that fairies exist, Lizzy sets a trap Tink finds irresistible. After spying the pinned butterflies on the wall, Tinker Bell fears the worst. Instead, the sympathetic teen is every bit as curious as the fairy, who, even as a fairy militia is embarking on a rescue mission, reveals the secret of flight to her new friend.

Convincing Dr. Griffiths not only of the existence of fairies, but also the necessity of keeping their world sheltered from purveyors of freak-show curiosities requires the combined efforts of Lizzy and Tink.

Naturally, the computer-generated Great Fairy Rescue looks vastly different than the original, hand-drawn Peter Pan and, as a less expensive non-theatrical feature, is a notch or two below Pixar’s usual standards for animation (yet, better than the first two episodes). None of this will matter much to younger viewers, for whom the highly entertaining story will be sufficient cause for celebration.

The special features include 15 minutes of d

eleted scenes; an interactive “Fairy Field Guide” trivia game; a short “Design a Fairy House” piece; and a music video of Bridgit Mendler‘s How to Believe.


(Untitled): Blu-ray

Adam Goldberg, who plays neurotic characters as well as anyone half the age of Woody Allen, plays a real doozey in Jonathan Parker’s satire of New York’s contemporary art scene, (Untitled).” When he isn’t entertaining diners in swank dining rooms with piano standards, Goldberg’s Adrian Jacobs is composing symphonies that sound suspiciously like toasters being tossed in domestic disputes and plumbers sloshing their way through a backed-up basement. More often than not, his compositions are performed in the kind of Chelsea galleries where the art is as disturbing as Adrian’s music.

Eoin Bailey plays Adrian’s brother, Josh, whose paintings are infinitely more accessible, but is reluctant to put them on display. Both covet Madeleine (Marley Shelton), an archetypically pretentious, if undeniably attractive “gallerist” with an open mind and luxurious apartment. Among the characters who keep the pace lively here are a taxidermy artist (Vinnie Jones) and a collector with more money than taste (Eion Bailey). Adrian’s tantrums get tiresome after a short while, but his ability to absorb lessons about his craft ultimately saves the day. Coincidentally, (Untitled) arrives during the same week as Boogie Woogie, a film that similarly eviscerates the London art scene.


Experiment: Blu-ray

Viggo Mortensen plays against type as a mild-mannered literature professor coerced into becoming a Nazi Party member after his book about euthanasia is embraced by key members of Hitler’s inner circle. A veteran of World War I with close friends who are Jewish, John Halder is flattered, if slightly confused by his book’s newfound popularity. Even on the eve of Kristallnacht, he doesn’t recognize the Nazis as the threat to humanity they soon would become.

He enjoys the privileges that come with rank in the SS, especially the adoration of a home-wrecking student who could be the poster girl for Aryan pulchritude. When it becomes clear that his closest friend, a Jew who fought beside him in the war, is in danger of being imprisoned, Halder also is able to his clout getting exit papers, which go unused. His psychoanalyst friend (Jason Isaacs) is as appalled as we are by Halder’s inability to see beyond the perks and openly denounce the Nazis. It won’t take long for the truth to sink in, however.

Good, a title that refers to the dilemma faced by “good” Germans under the Nazi regime was adapted from a stage play by C.P. Taylor. The story that played out on a nearly bare stage in London and New York — with its pointed, stream-of-consciousness dialogue — doesn’t benefit at all from being opened up and given a melodramatic facelift to accommodate a college campus, ballrooms and trashed streets. Still, fans of Mortensen’s work won’t be disappointed by his performance here.

I wonder why it’s taken almost 10 years for an American version of the taut German drama, Das Experiment, to emerge. Both movies are based on the same Stanford Prison Experiment, which, in 1971, tested the ability of 20 otherwise-ordinary males to last two weeks in a mock-prison environment. They were divided into groups of guards and prisoners, given the appropriate uniforms and fatigues, and told how to behave.

The experiment lasted all of six days, before outside observers became appalled by the guards’ abuses of power and demanded it be shut down. In Das Experiment, it’s impossible to ignore the parallels between how the study played out and what actually happened in Germany when SS officers were assigned different uniforms and responsibilities than those of German army officers and conscripted soldiers.

Oscar-winners Adrien Brody and Forest Whitaker lead the predominantly male cast of Paul Schuering’s American adaptation of Mario Giordano’s novel, Black Box, based on the same Stanford study. Having created Fox’s Prison Break, there’s no question Schuering knows the territory. What’s missing is a sense that anything’s at stake in The Experiment, beyond the chunk of money allotted the participants. Unless one is a member of a minority group, poor or has been wrongfully accused of a serious crime, most Americans audiences wouldn’t make the connection between the bullying tactics adopted by the “guards” and the police they encounter in their daily lives or see on Cops.

It explains why so many of us refuse to believe that American soldiers are capable of committing atrocities or crimes against civilians in the fog and fire of war. Had Schuering been willing to change the prison environment to something closer to Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, his movie might have benefitted from a more palpable sense of urgency. Fans of of Brody and Whitaker will find something of value here, but I would also recommend they sample Das Experiment.


Stripped Naked

On late-night cable shows and in straight-to-DVD movies, serious crimes occur in and around strip clubs all the time. It hardly matters if the club is one of those swank “gentlemen” joints in Las Vegas or a biker bar in Texas. Partially clad women not only are the victims of and witnesses to murders, drug deals and rip-offs, they sometimes even solve them.

Is this a great country, or what? Judging from the cover art, Stripped Naked wants to be taken seriously as any Tarantino-approved grindhouse picture. Ultimately, though, a curious lack of nudity and gratuitous violence is the downfall of Stripped Naked. Sarah Allen plays an exotic dancer, who, after being tossed out of a car by her boyfriend, stumbles upon a deadly shootout between a meth wholesaler and a potential customer.

She escapes the scene in one of the corpses’ vehicles, which she wisely hides in the garage of the home she shares with another stripper. The roommate makes the mistake of borrowing the automobile, which, of course, is spotted by one of the Big Boss’ henchman and leads them to the bar where they work. The dancer’s troubles are compounded when her deadbeat boyfriend finds the money and drugs, and decides to use them to finance a body shop … sadly, car bodies. It’s a mess, alright. Too bad Canadian director Lee Demarbe, whose previous credits include Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter and Harry Knuckles and the Pearl Necklace, is better at coming up with grindhouse titles than delivering grindhouse values.


Eclipse Series 24: The Actuality Dramas of Allan King

Anyone who believes that reality didn’t exist on television before The Real World: Las Vegas obviously hasn’t heard of the ground-breaking 1973 PBS series, An American Family or, for that matter, Albert Brooks’ parody of the show, Real Life, which appeared six years later and foretold how easily it would be to manipulate the outcomes of such productions.

Widespread acceptance of fly-on-the-wall documentaries made by such cinema verite and direct-cinema pioneers as Allan King, Frederic Wiseman, D.A. Pennebaker, the Maysles brothers, Richard Leacock, Robert Frank, Chris Marker, Roman Kroitor, Wolf Koenig and Robert Drew, opened the door for Charlotte Zwerin, Les Blank, Werner Herzog,  Errol Morris, Barbara Kopple, Kartemquin Films and Michael Moore.

The latest addition to Criterion Collection’s revelatory Eclipse Series re-introduces the documentaries – a.k.a., actuality dramas – of the little-known Canadian filmmaker, Allen King. The ones here represent the length and breadth of King’s 50-year career, which was shared by frequent forays into episodic television and the occasional feature film. Warrendale (1967) documents five weeks in the lives of a dozen children living in a home for emotionally disturbed kids; A Married Couple (1969) records five weeks in the very loud marriage of a cantankerous post-hippie, pre-yuppie couple; Come on Children (1973) describes how several disaffected urban teens adjusted to 10 weeks of communal life in a farmhouse; Dying at Grace (2003) introduces us to five terminally ill cancer patients with lots to say about life and death; and Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company (2005) follows the daily care of eight patients suffering from dementia and memory loss.

Almost all of the people we meet in the early documentaries are stuck in the mire of messy lives. It’s especially difficult to watch the children, who lack the ability to control their emotions and prevent physical confrontations with the facility’s supportive, if overwhelmed staff. The teens in the farmhouse are alienated from their parents and society, but share a love of music and no small amount of talent. The couple’s marriage is a train wreck waiting to happen. Knowing that King soon will die of brain cancer only makes the final two docs that much more poignant.

The 1982 PBS mini-series Middletown revisits the notion, advanced by researchers 60 years earlier that the citizens of Muncie, Indiana, best reflect the forces that make America tick. Not surprisingly, the Midwestern community has changed with the times – especially in the area of racial relations and economic trends — even as certain bedrock values have remained very much the same.

Each of the chapters in Peter Davis’ production focus on a different aspect of Muncie life:  sports, politics, faith, family businesses, marriage and coming-of-age in a modern public high school. The final segment proved so controversial in its portrayal of Muncie teens that it was eliminated from the television presentation and shown in theaters. Compared to what we see in the Allan King set and Middletown, most of today’s reality shows belong on the Cartoon Network.


Modern Family: The Complete First Season

Spartacus: Blood and Sand: The Complete First Season
Bored to Death: The Complete First Season
Amish Grace

Entering its second season, the hit ABC sitcom Modern Family has given itself a mighty tough act to follow. It was nominated for 14 Emmys, winning 6. It won a Directors Guild prize and a pair from the Writers Guild. More importantly, perhaps, it demonstrated that premium-cable networks weren’t the only ones that could create intelligent offbeat comedies.

The hook going into Season One was having one of three related families being gay. Given the increasingly conservative public face of America, it took something resembling courage to introduce a gay couple with an adopted child. I can’t recall there being much of a controversy, though. Their addition made the already ecumenical cast of characters that much more diverse and representative of the crazy quilt of contemporary American families.

The generous Blu-ray package includes d

eleted, extended and alternate scenes and interviews; a gag reel; and the featurettes Real Modern Family Moments, Before Modern Family, Fizbo the Clown, Modern Family: Making of ‘Family Portrait’ and Modern Family Hawaii.

The Starz miniseries, Spartacus, delivered more action, gore and skin in its allotted 60 minutes each week than most such series do in an entire season. It stars hunky Andy Whitfield as a Thracian soldier betrayed by his Roman allies, who kidnap his wife and ship him off to gladiator school. A massive chip on his shoulder demands that he seek revenge against his Roman owners, while using his natural skills not to survive but also convince them of value as a prize fighter.

If the Thracian makes his boss money, he’s told, his wife will be returned to him. Borrowing a page from the WWE playbook, his owner re-names him Spartacus, the last great Thracian warrior. A victory over a notorious grappler ensures he’ll be a popular champion. Beyond any bloodletting in the arena and potentially dangerous rivalries in his dungeon home, though, Spartacus also has to deal with the depraved machinations of several desperately horny women and their debauched husbands.

(It required full-frontal nudity on the parts of the gladiators, as well.)

Spartacus isn’t for the squeamish, though. While undeniably exciting, the fight scenes are almost preposterously graphic in their depictions of severed limbs, beheadings and arterial bleeding. The bonus material adds commentaries, behind-the-scenes footage, bloopers, several explanatory featurettes on the gladiator camp, historical backgrounders, special effects and, on Blu-ray,

four Directors’ Cut Extended Episodes.

Bored to Death is an exceedingly offbeat HBO comedy series in which a nebbishy writer (Jason Schwartzman) moonlights as a P.I. He gets dubious support from a cartoonist (Zach Galifianakis) and a millionaire (Ted Danson), who’s game for just about anything. Various noir conceits are employed by the writers, who also make it difficult for Schwartzman’s self-involved character to pull off the charade.

Bored to Death continually runs the risk of being too hip for the room, but, while it’s on track, it’s very clever. Look for appearances by Olivia Thirlby, Kristen Wiig, Parker Posey, Bebe Neuwirth, Patton Oswalt and Jim Jarmusch. The set adds Making of Bored to Death; Jonathan Ames’ Brooklyn; deleted scenes and commentaries

Lifetime’s Amish Grace attracted a huge audience to the cable network when it debuted last March, on Palm Sunday. It was inspired by a terrible shooting at a one-room Amish schoolhouse and the community’s willingness to forgive and comfort the family of the murderer, who committed suicide. Kimberly Williams-Paisley plays an Amish woman whose oldest daughter was killed. Her husband is one the community leaders called upon to craft a response that represents their faith, as well as their pain.

Wilmington on DVDs: Robin Hood, Charade, Playing for Time, Forbidden Planet, The Secret Behind Their Eyes … and more

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010


Robin Hood (Three and a Half Stars)

U.S.; Ridley Scott, 2010
“To live outside the law, you must be honest,“ Bob Dylan once sang (in “”Absolutely Sweet Marie,“ from “Blonde on Blonde“). And that’s the credo that permeates most of the many, many screen incarnations of Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest, that most honest of outlaws, most dashing of rebels, and most enduring of British historical legends and heroes. From Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. to Errol Flynn to Richard Greene to both Sean and Jason Connery, Kevin Costner and now Russell Crowe, Robin, as he’s portrayed in literature, film and TV, has remained our favorite outlaw, our preferred sharer of the wealth.

Wilmington on Movies: Robin Hood and Just Wright…

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Robin Hood (Three and a Half Stars)
U.S.; Ridley Scott, 2010

“To live outside the law, you must be honest,“ Bob Dylan once sang (more…)

Robin Hood – The Interactive Trailer

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

With their country weakened from decades of war, embattled from the ineffective rule of the new king and vulnerable to insurgencies from within and threats from afar, Robin and his men heed a call to ever greater adventure.  This unlikeliest of heroes and his allies set off to protect their country from slipping into bloody civil war and return glory to England once more.

Pictures from Nottingham

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Upon Richard’s death, Robin travels to Nottingham, a town suffering from the corruption of a despotic sheriff and crippling taxation, where he falls for the spirited widow Lady Marion, a woman skeptical of the identity and motivations of this crusader from the forest. Hoping to earn the hand of Maid Marion and salvage the village, Robin assembles a gang whose lethal mercenary skills are matched only by its appetite for life. Together, they begin preying on the indulgent upper class to correct injustices under the sheriff.

The New TV Spot for Robin Hood

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

Robin Hood’s Newest Trailer

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Robin Hood: The Super Bowl Spot

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Postering Russell Crowe in Robin Hood

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Imaging Robin Hood

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

With their country weakened from decades of war, embattled from the ineffective rule of the new king and vulnerable to insurgencies from within and threats from afar, Robin and his men heed a call to ever greater adventure.  This unlikeliest of heroes and his allies set off to protect their country from slipping into bloody civil war and return glory to England once more.

Teasing Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

An archer in the army of Richard Coeur de Lion  fights against the Norman invaders and becomes the legendary hero known as Robin Hood.