I don’t like the trailer for The DaVinci Code at all. Does anyone? Ron Howard’s thriller (due 5.16.06 from Columbia) might be a clas- sic, but the trailer makes it seem like shameless formulaic dreck. That shot of an alarmed Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou running together and holding hands…is there a more detestable action- thriller cliche in the book? I still say Hanks looks too old and too big for Tatou — she’s this little French Tinkerbell and he’s this tall, hulking guy with crow’s feet. And that naked bald guy lying dead on the floor of the Louvre, a victim of a sacrifical killing… c’mon! They’re obviously aiming at devout Christians who are still invested in the legend of Yeshua’s divine avoidance of female companionship, blah, blah. I don’t live on that planet. I don’t live in that solar system…proudly.
November and early-December tracking figures indicated The Family Stone wouldn’t do terribly well, but that hasn’t been the case. The campaign was clumsy but the word-of-mouth saved it. The Thomas Bezucha-Michael London film will be up to $45 million (it did $2.747 yesterday, up 16%) by weekend’s end and will probably end up with $60 million at the end of the run. The only unfortunate factor is that Stone distrib 20th Century Fox is opening Grandma’s Boy on Friday, 1.6, which will likely result in Stone losing 500 or so theatres. Fox should have opened it in November, as originally planned. They could have made $15 or $20 million more if they had.
Yesterday’s figures (Friday, 12.30) show that most films are enjoying holiday increases this weekend. The Chronicles of Narnia was up 22% from last Friday for a $9.6 million haul and a projected
4-day weekend tally of $36 million. King Kong, up 12%, did around $8.7 or or 8.8 million and a projected $30 million for the weekend, which will put it up to $173 million and a likely $225 to $250 million when all is said and done. Fun With Dick and Jane‘s $6 million (up 17%) indicates $22 million for the 4-day weekend. (“It’ll do okay but they won’t hit $100 million,” says my source.) Cheaper by the Dozen was up 44% (“That’s a very healthy jump”) and did $5.6 million last night for a projected $21 million for the weekend. Rumor Has It did $2.1 million last night, $1100 per print…dead. Geisha is dead also — $2.7 million last night, up only 5% from last Friday. Word-of-mouth winner Family Stone will end up with $45 million by the end of the weekend. Munich will end up with $40 or $50 million by the end of its run, and that’s with Universal spending ad money like drunken sailors. It took in $1.5 million Friday in 532 theatres yesterday, with a projected $5.7 million for the weekend. (“That’s not much,” my guy says. “They’re going into 1800 theatres next Friday and then we’ll know the story. I don’t think people care very much about the subject matter, plus it has a down ending.”) Brokeback Mountain was up 70% from last Friday, having expanded by 52 screens for a total of 269. It’ll have about $5.2 million for the weekend, and at the end of the weekend it’ll have earned about $16.5 million. (“And it’s still in limited…that picture’s working“) The Producers is “pretty much dead.” Walk the Line will be up to $92 million by the close of the weekend and will top $100 million before the end of the run. Match Point is “working so far” but “it’s only played Woody Allen territory so far.” Casanova hasn’t been doing too well, The Matador was so-so yesterday, The New World is dead, and so is Syriana.
No question about it: Orlando Bloom was looking like a very hot package a year ago with his leading-man performances in the upcoming Kingdom of Heaven and Elizabethtown yet to be seen but everyone thinking nonetheless, “Yeah, he’s really the guy… teenage girls love him, and how can he miss in major films by Ridley Scott and Cameron Crowe?” But both films tanked and Bloom didn’t do well by the critics in either one, and now he’s really in Shit City because New York Times reporter Sharon Waxman has written an obituary (in Sunday’s 1.1.06 edition) about Bloom’s career troubles and characterized his choices over the past two years as a cautionary tale. At the end of the piece, Waxman writes that “Hollywood is most likely already on the march, hunting for its next new naif.” Okay, so he’s over…for now. But you know what? Bloom can be born again like Heath Ledger was with Brokeback Mountain. Things happen in their own time, for their own reasons. Bloom told Waxman via e-mail that he’s “focused on his craft rather than on achieving stardom,” and added that he’s “proud” of having made Kingdom of Heaven and Elizabethtown. “I learned so much from both Ridley Scott and Cameron Crowe, and view both experiences as the opportunities of a lifetime,” he said.
I can’t tell if the 190-minute “Extended Cut” version of Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven opened at the Laemmle Fairfax on Friday 12.23 or three days ago (Wednesday, 12.28), but it’s playing there now…and I wish New Yorkers could see it also. Why didn’t they book this version into a smallish Manhattan theatre, or, better yet, why didn’t Fox Home Video release it as a year-end DVD attraction? (The 145 minute theatrical version came out on 10.11.) David Poland, who lives two and a half blocks from the Laemmle Fairfax, says the extended cut “is night and day from the original.” It makes it clear that as far as the theatrical version that came out last May 6th was concerned, “Fox literally cut out the story of the movie,” he says. “I was so shocked by what was back in that I had to rent the [theatrical version] DVD that is now out to make sure I wasn’t crazy. What is breathtaking is that every major character in the movie, except perhaps Ghassan Massoud’s already brilliant turn as Saladin, is significantly enhanced by the additions. Edward Norton’s cameo as The King of Jerusalem now feels like a real performance. Marton Csokas is no longer just a caricature. Liam Neeson’s character has history and motivation, not just people telling us how great he was. And even Orlando Bloom’s Balian is given greater depth, his despair and his need for forgiveness actually making sense when you see Scott’s real vision for the film. [Fox] gutted a great film and made us all think it was shallow. Shame on them.”
Wells postscript: Big studios have knowingly and deliberately gutted great (or very good) films in the editing room and turned them into merely good or passable theatrical cuts before…Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America and Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous (far better as the “Untitled” version on DVD) are the two best-known examples. If Poland’s take on Kingdom of Heaven‘s “Extended Cut” becomes generally accepted, this will be another big example of this syndrome. What are some other films that went through this? (And don’t mention Robert Wise’s longer Star Trek: The Motion Picture…that’s not allowed).
A certain critic says that 2005 “was a fairly crappy year at the movies” and “while every year I seem to come up with more than 30 movies that I really cherish…this year 20 seemed like a bit of a reach.” That seems gruff and unduly dismissive to me. I came up with 41 films — 15 creme de la creme and 26 that were pretty damn okay. In any event, 2005 ends at midnight Paris time (6 pm in Manhattan, 3 pm in Los Angeles) and here they are again: Creme de la Creme: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, The Constant Gardener, A History of Violence, Hustle & Flow, In Her Shoes, Match Point, The Family Stone, Walk the Line, Crash, Cinderella Man, The Beautiful Country, Last Days, Grizzly Man, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (15). And Pretty Damn Good: Good Night and Good Luck, The Wedding Crashers, Syriana, The Aristocrats, Batman Begins, Broken Flowers, Bob Dylan: No Direction Home, Cache (Hidden), The Interpreter (for the bomb-on-the-bus scene alone), King Kong (if you can excuse the first 70 minutes), Nine Lives (for Robin Wright Penn alone), Cronicas, The Beat That My Heart Skipped, The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach has an assured place at the table), The Upside of Anger (for Kevin Costner’s performance), The Thing About My Folks (for Peter Falk’s performance), Mrs. Henderson Presents, Kung Fu Hustle, Kingdom of Heaven, Rent, Broken Flowers, Brothers (for Connie Nielsen’s performance and the austere and upfront tone of Suzanne Bier’s direction), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, War of the Worlds, Casanova, My Date With Drew (a good-humored rendering of a metaphor about youthful pluck and persistence and team spirit), My Summer of Love, Paradise Now. (26)