Tuesday, 29 Nov. 2005
On the Street: Here's this morning's notable street discs, available at Amazon.com:
Tuesday, 22 Nov. 2005
Giving Thanks: It's time once again for the staff of The DVD Journal to return to hearth and home, and give thanks with family and friends. Meanwhile, yr. humble ed. will be flying our corporate Gulfstream DVD One to the United Kingdom, where our British friends avoid the Thanksgiving holiday altogether. We'll return with plenty of new reviews on Monday, Dec. 5 we'll see you then.
In the Works: Here's some new disc announcements, courtesy of Amazon.com and additional staff reports:
On the Street: There's an 800-lb. gorilla on top of this week's street-list literally. Coming off the DVD MIA list in a very big way is Warner's 1933 King Kong, which streets in a Collector's Edition (with reprints and a tin case), a two-disc Special Edition, and a four-disc "King Kong Collection" that also includes 1933's The Son of Kong and 1949's Mighty Joe Young. Fans are lining up to get their copies, although it's unlikely that big ape will stop DreamWorks' War of the Worlds from topping this week's sales chart. Paramount's also gone bananas today with their release of the 1976 King Kong, as well as this year's remake of The Honeymooners, while Criterion collectors can look for Akira Kurosawa's Ran and Powell & Pressburger's The Tales of Hoffmann. Shaping up for a good holiday run is Warner's The Polar Express. And it's the gift for that special DVD fan who has nothing The Warner Classics Mega Collection will break the bank (and your big toe) in a 237-disc set. Here's this morning's notable street discs, available at Amazon.com:
Monday, 21 Nov. 2005
Disc of the Week: "King Kong died for our sins." It's a T-shirt seen recently in Seattle, worn by a teenager and illustrated with the original vintage image of the monster ape atop the Empire State Building. An image from 1933, when this iPod-age kid's great-grandparents were ready to replace Herbert Hoover with FDR. Like religious iconography, some elements from movie history a capricious, unforeseeable few have achieved a sort of transcendence. Chaplin's Little Tramp. Darth Vader's mask. They're written into the hard drive of our culture, glyphs recognized instantly even if you've had no direct contact with their sources. It's no surprise then to see that on King Kong's first, and superb, DVD release, two generations of filmmakers are on record praising this pioneering film as influential beyond its action-adventure-monster-thriller aims. In the new commentary track, special-effects master Ray Harryhausen (with colleague Ken Ralston) tells us that as a boy he first viewed Kong at its Grauman's Chinese Theatre premiere, and that it irrevocably altered the course of his life. Without Kong, the movies that showcased Harryhausen's effects work in the 1950s and '60s would have never been made, movies that have themselves inspired later filmmakers such as Landis, Lucas, and Spielberg. Harryhausen's Hollywood star is now across the street from where it all began for him. Elsewhere within this two-disc celebration is a terrific new "making-of" documentary. That's where Peter Jackson demonstrably the most well-connected Kongophile on the planet gushes about first experiencing this old black-and-white fantasy at age 12. He credits it with kick-starting his desire to make movies. Without Kong, would we now have Jackson's Lord of the Rings? Would Lucas have made Star Wars? And if not, where would we, or Hollywood, be today? Hear that sound? That's dominoes toppling like little 2001 monoliths.
That big ape's fingerprints are everywhere. Jack Kerouac gave King Kong (along with Lamont Cranston, Popeye, and the Marx Brothers) credit for originating the Beat Generation. "Whatever happened to Fay Wray?" asks The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Kong's Lilliputian blond love interest gained a curious immortality: While she did little more than scream and look beautiful, we remember Fay Wray's name, not Ann Darrow, as the girl held in that hairy paw. The actress couldn't have known that hers would be the other household name to emerge from RKO's hush-hush project, which was one of her eleven films released in '33. How many people today remember that Robert Armstrong played the reckless impresario Carl Denham? Denham was, in fact, a thinly fictionalized alter ego for producer Merian C. Cooper, an adventurer whose flamboyant Indiana Jones life deserves its own full-length documentary (which, incidentally, is on Disc Two). Even Bruce Cabot as the two-fisted hero, First Mate Jack Driscoll, is forgotten to all but the aficionados. Granted, his dry, aw-shucks performance makes him the least memorable lead, but something about it adds to Kong's abundant naive charms. What Wray likely did know was that this was a project rife with firsts. The film practically invented sound design. Max Steiner's symphonic score taught the movies how to use original music. The screenplay, as lean and straight as an arrow, is a model for how to ground the most outrageous fantasy in the mundane, the everyday, so that we buy even a prehistoric jungle filled with otherworldly terrors. Best of all, of course, are Willis O'Brien's groundbreaking stop-motion creature performances, which imbued tabletop models with character and nuance. When the T-Rex scratches its head like a cocker spaniel, and the brontosaur sneers at its upcoming human Slim Jim, suddenly they're living things, not just props. When Kong kills the T-Rex by breaking open its jaw, we wince at the brutal realism of it. Kong's longevity began when O'Brien gave the 18-inch-tall puppet more humanity and personality than we see from the flesh-and-blood actors onscreen. After the climax's Manhattan rampage, when Kong plummets off the Empire State Building, we don't feel triumph for our side. No Death Star explosion hurrahs here. Whether Kong or Denham is the movie's genuine monster remains an open question.
Calling King Kong the Star Wars of its day sounds too pat, though it's accurate enough. A rousing story with huge, never-seen-before visuals. All-day showings for lines of ticket-buyers around the block. Star Wars arrived fortuitously when we needed it most, the malaise of the 1970s. When King Kong debuted during the rock-bottom of the Depression, it gave people what they really wanted to see: a giant ape giving Wall Street a thrashing. Entire books have explored why King Kong's potency endures long after so much of it has become dated by evolving styles, techniques, and expectations. (It's not perfect, it's just great.) There are exegeses about metaphors for the immigrant experience in America, the symbolism of Nature vs. Civilization, and Freudian or Jungian interpretations (that Empire State Building looks mighty suggestive). There's some truth there, probably. Somehow Kong taps our brain's collective dream-level to strike a mythopoetic, universal note. Cooper, though, would snort at such ex post facto blather. He just aimed to make a rip-roaring good picture. Whatever else it is, King Kong is that. The better part of a century later, it's still a hell of a lot of fun. That's all we want and all it needs to be. Pretty cool about that T-shirt, though.
It took eight years for the Eighth Wonder of the World to hit DVD. Everyone involved wanted to get it right, and there's no question that they succeeded. Warner's King Kong DVD presents a print newly restored from the best available source materials. Sharper, cleaner, and far more vivid than previous home video editions, this restoration really brings out the beautiful composite visuals, which pack the screen with almost three-dimensional dreamscapes. Even if you've seen the film dozens of times, you're bound to notice details you've never seen before. Just as important, it hasn't been over-restored. We still see just enough grain and minor hairline scratches to remind us that the original elements are long gone, though neither do we get a polish so shiny that we're always aware of a digital lacquering. The DD 1.0 audio is likewise clean and robust with just enough enhancement. The extras are a treasure box for hardcore and casual fans alike. The commentary with Ray Harryhausen and Ken Ralston isn't deep (technical info doesn't go beyond Kong 101), but it is an enjoyable sit-down with two knowledgeable enthusiasts sharing their pleasure of the film. (The commentary also includes a few archival inserts from Merian C. Cooper and Fay Wray.) Disc Two's highlights are two excellent documentaries. I'm Kong: The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper (60 min.) is a 2005 production from TCM and Photoplay, co-directed by film historian Kevin Brownlow. Cooper, along with longtime friend and co-producer/adventurer/explorer Ernest B. Schoedsack, is revealed as man movies should be about. Then clocking in at a speedy two and half hours, RKO Production 601: The Making of Kong is a seven-part archeological dig into the film's conception, production, and legacy. Peter Jackson joins historians, film professionals, effects artisans, and other deep-dyed fans in one of the best "making-of" testimonials to be seen anywhere. Its most notable segment details Jackson's painstaking pseudo-recreation of the famous Lost Spider Pit Sequence, by itself worth the sticker-price for devotees. Rounding out the extras are a gallery of eight Merian C. Cooper movie trailers, and test footage (with Harryhausen's commentary) for Willis O'Brien's aborted film Creation, which convinced Cooper of O'Brien's rightness for Kong. The discs' double slimline case comes packed in an embossed tin box. Also inside is a reproduction of the program book from the Grauman's premiere, and a set of postcard-size Kong posters. King Kong: Collectors Edition is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: There may as well have been just one movie in cineplexes over the pre-Thanksgiving weekend Warner Brothers' Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire didn't just knock out triple digits in its first three days, but the remaining films in the top ten combined could only muster two-thirds of the boy wizard's $101.4 million debut. The win gave Goblet the fourth-best three-day opening ever and diminished Sony's Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, which otherwise took in a respectable $22.4 million while generating the expected Oscar whispers. Critics gave both Goblet and Line strong reviews.
In continuing release, Disney's animated Chicken Little slipped to third place after two weeks atop the roost, but clearing nearly $100 million before its expected displacement by Goblet of Fire. The Weinstein Company's Derailed with Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston held up well in fourth place, adding $6.5 million to $21.8 million so far, while Sony's family adventure Zathura closed out the top five with $20.2 million in the bank. Doing solid business after three weekends is Universal's Gulf War drama Jarhead, which has dug up $54.3 million. Not doing quite as well is Paramount's Get Rich or Die Tryin' starring Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson, which dropped to seventh place in its second frame with only $4.3 million for the session. Still in limited release, Pride and Prejudice and Good Night and Good Luck remain Oscar hopefuls. And off to DVD prep is DreamWorks' Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story, which will close around $30 million.
New films on screens this Wednesday include The Ice Harvest with John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton, In the Mix starring Usher, Yours, Mine & Ours starring Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo, the rom-com Just Friends, and the big-screen adaptation of Rent. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: Gregory P. Dorr has posted a sneak-preview of Criterion's two-disc release of Akira Kurosawa's Ran, while Dawn Taylor recently spun Fox's 40th Anniversary Edition of The Sound of Music. New stuff this week from the rest of the team includes Mr. & Mrs. Smith, The Polar Express, The Skeleton Key, The Tales of Hoffmann: The Criterion Collection, Lady Sings the Blues, King Kong: Collector's Edition, and Cheaper By the Dozen: Baker's Dozen Edition. It's all under our New Reviews menu here on the front page.
Back tomorrow with the street discs.
Tuesday, 15 Nov. 2005
In the Works: Here's some new disc announcements, courtesy of Amazon.com and additional staff reports:
On the Street: Fox gets a trio of double-wides off the hitch this morning with all-new editions of three classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, and State Fair, all in two-disc sets with slimline DVD packaging. Fresh from DreamWorks is the animated Madagascar, while Universal goes for thrills with The Skeleton Key and Sony is looking to make up some mileage with their collapsed summer tentpole Stealth from director Rob Cohen. And with the holiday shopping season nearly underway, there's heavier stuff to stick in your shopping cart, including a new three-disc Monty Python Box Set from Sony, a seven-disc Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection from New Line, and complete Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Friends boxes running no less than 40 discs apiece. Here's this morning's notable street discs, available at Amazon.com:
Monday, 14 Nov. 2005
Disc of the Week: As Barton Fink made plain, if an artist has success on Broadway then Hollywood will beckon. For Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II who both had flirted with the West Coast before it was 1945's State Fair that cemented their relationship with the big screen. The two had been working apart for years, but as Rodgers' partnership with Lorenz Hart was coming to an end he teamed up with Hammerstein for Oklahoma!. The play was a rousing success, running for years on Broadway, and it led the duo to adapting Henry King's 1933 picture State Fair into a musical for 20th Century Fox, which became their home studio for such projects as The King and I and The Sound of Music. A celebration of Middle America and small town life, State Fair is the only movie that the duo wrote expressly for the screen (only later was it turned into a stage show). And unlike other famous Rodgers and Hammerstein film adaptations, it's the only one that's not a widescreen picture. Such actually works to the movie's advantage it's a small story, one about a family and simple pleasures. Such also may be why the 1962 CinemaScope remake starring Pat Boone and Ann-Margret falls so flat. Both versions are included in Fox's "60th Anniversary Edition" double feature of State Fair, and the remake reveals why the original works so well.
The 1945 version of State Fair follows the Frake family as they plan to go to the Iowa State Fair (as the lyrics dryly inform: "Our state fair is the best state fair in our state"). Mother Emily Frake (Fay Bainter) is busy with her pickles and her mincemeat, both of which she plans to enter into the food judging. She's concerned that her mincemeat is off, but she doesn't want to add the required brandy. Husband Abel (Charles Winninger) is anxious about his pig Blueboy, who's also going to enter a fair contest, but who only comes to attention when he's around a sow. Daughter Margy (Jeanne Crain) has been "as restless as a willow in a windstorm" due to her boredom with her current beau, and brother Wayne (Dick Haymes) is bummed that his girlfriend won't be going with them since he's spent the last year mastering the ring toss. While at the fair, both children meet new love interests: For Margy, it's reporter Pat Gilbert (Dana Andrews), and for Wayne it's singer Emily Edwards (Vivian Blaine). As the parents trouble themselves with their contests, both Frake children fall for their respective dates. But trouble looms as Pat has to contemplate moving away to accept a better job, and Emily holds a secret that she doesn't want to share.
By the time the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals really took hold of Hollywood in the 1950s, the style of the musical genre itself was evolving from lively hoofers starring Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly to more story-centric productions. In part, this is why 1945's State Fair is so appealing it's a modest movie about two kids who fall in love over the course of a weekend. Compared to the larger scale of The Sound of Music or The King and I, this is a unpretentious effort, but slightness has always been something musical productions could use to their advantage. The 1945 State Fair is more in tune with the song-and-dance shows of the period; it's also fascinating because it's the closest Rodgers and Hammerstein came to making a Hollywood-style musical. As to be expected, the numbers are catchy and beautiful, from Margy's playful "It Might as Well Be Spring" to the sweep of "It's a Grand Night for Singing." And director Walter Lang has a light touch with the performers and the music, which led to his work on 1956's The King and I. The 1962 version of State Fair changes Iowa to Texas, transforms Wayne into a racecar driver, and features Pat Boone as Wayne, Pamela Tiffin as Margy, and Tom Ewell and Alice Faye as their parents. But where the original moves at a quick clip, this Jose Ferrer production is interminable. Running 18 minutes longer, all that there is to recommend it is the appearance of Ann-Margret in the Emily Edwards role (here named Emily Porter). The widescreen framing may be the final straw. For a small story, the CinemaScope ratio swells what should be intimate moments, which eventually are lost on an empty canvas.
Fox's two-disc "60th Anniversary edition" of State Fair includes both films. The 1945 rendition is found on Disc One in a good full-frame transfer (1.33:1) that makes it look better than ever, while audio is clear on DD 2.0 stereo and mono tracks. Extras on this first disc include a commentary by film historians Richard Barrios and Tom Briggs, and the featurette "From Page to Screen to Stage: State Fair," which covers the history of both films and its later adaptation into a stage production (30 min.). Also on board are the film's theatrical trailer, stills galleries, and a karaoke-style singalong mode. Disc Two offers the 1962 version in a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with DD 4.0 audio. Extras on this disc include a commentary by Pat Boone (with long stretches of silence), the "Vintage Stage Excerpt: 'It Might as Well be Spring' performed by Mary Martin" (2 min.), and the theatrical trailer. Wrapping up the set is a third adaptation in the form of the 1976 television pilot "State Fair" (50 min.) with Vera Miles, Tim O'Connor, Mitch Vogel, and Julie Cobb as the family, here named the Bryants. It is, as to be expected, miserable, with some horrid songs that have nothing to do with Rodgers and Hammerstein. State Fair: 60th Anniversary Edition is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: Three new films went wide over the weekend, but none could displace Disney's first foray into computer animation despite some scathing reviews, Chicken Little stayed atop the box-office chart for the second week running, adding $32 million to an $80.7 million gross. The win easily outdistanced three competitors who came in with similar numbers. Sony's family adventure Zathura secured second place with $14 million, The Weinstein Company's Derailed landed in third with $12.8 million, and Paramount's Get Rich or Die Tryin' starring Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson was good for $12.5 million, giving it $18.2 million overall since its Wednesday debut. And clawing its way into tenth place was UPI/Focus Features' Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly, which bundled up $2.8 million on just 215 screens. Critics loved Prejudice and were positive toward Zathura, while Derailed and Die Tryin' earned mostly negative notices.
In continuing release, Universal's Desert Storm drama Jarhead starring Jake Gyllenhaal slipped from second to fifth place, adding $12.2 million to a $47 million gross, while Lions Gate's surprisingly strong Saw II notched down to sixth place with $74.1 million in just three sessions. Not faring nearly as well is Sony's The Legend of Zorro, which is looking to clear $40 million, while Universal's Prime with Uma Thurman is fading with $19 million on the books. Limited-release titles continue to perform well in the run up to Oscar season George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck has $14.6 million in the bag, while Steve Martin's Shopgirl has cleared $6.1 million. But off to DVD prep after a disappointing run is Paramount's The Weather Man starring Nicolas Cage, which failed to break $10 million.
New films in 'plexes this Friday include the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, as well as a little movie called Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: New reviews this week from the gang include Stealth: Special Edition, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Fugitive Kind, Oklahoma!: 50th Anniversary Edition, The White Shadow: Season One, State Fair: 60th Anniversary Edition, And Now for Something Completley Different, and O.C. and Stiggs. All can be found under the New Reviews menu here on the front page, while our DVD reviews database features more than 3,200 additional write-ups.
Back tomorrow with this week's street discs.
Tuesday, 8 Nov. 2005
In the Works: Here's some new disc announcements, courtesy of Amazon.com and additional staff reports:
On the Street: Two Criterion titles top our shopping this week Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu in a splendid two-disc set, and Robert Bresson's Pickpocket. However, there's plenty of new spins on the shelves today, including Warner's two-disc Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Deluxe Edition, Lions Gate's The Devil's Rejects, and Sony's Christmas with the Kranks. Holiday titles will fill out a lot of shopping, although we're partial to MGM's catalog release of four Marlon Brando titles this morning, Burn!, A Dry White Season, The Fugitive Kind, and The Missouri Breaks. Up from Paramount is Lady Sings the Blues starring Diana Ross, as well as Beavis & Butt-Head: The Mike Judge Collection: Vol. 1. And if it's starting to look a bit like you-know-what, new editions of Big Fish with a book and Edward Scissorhands in a "collectible tin" get the point across nicely. Here's this morning's notable street discs, available at Amazon.com:
Monday, 7 Nov. 2005
Disc of the Week: If Akira Kurosawa is the director generally described as the most "Western," and implicitly the most accessible, Japanese filmmaker, then Kenji Mizoguchi runs at least a close second. Because he died in 1956, just as worldwide audiences were getting swept up in the postwar wave of masterful Japanese cinema, Mizoguchi has never attained the recognition of Kurosawa or Yasujiro Ozu. But knowledgeable cinephiles treasure his work, and they should welcome the deluxe treatment given to one of Mizoguchi's most acclaimed efforts, 1953's Ugetsu, in this double-disc set from The Criterion Collection. Set in civil war-wracked 16th century Japan, Ugetsu follows the divergent fates of two couples, neighbors in a small village which awaits the inevitable incursion of enemy soldiers.
Genjuro (Masayuki Mori) is a farmer whose talent at pottery earns him extra money, especially as political chaos causes prices to rise. His neighbor (and, according to Tony Rayns' commentary, his brother) Tobei (Sakae Ozawa) appears at first to be that typical Japanese figure of comic relief, the peasant who harbors idealistic fantasies of one day becoming a samurai. It's clear from the outset that the men are fools and their wives, Miyagi (Kinuyo Tanaka) and Ohama (Mitsuko Mito), respectively, are the only ones with any sense. When the rampaging soldiers arrive in the village, Genjuro's opportunistic greed overcomes him and he risks a return home to retrieve his latest batch of vases and bowls. All four villagers, along with Genjuro and Miyagi's young son, escape by boat with this inventory. In the first of many indelible scenes, they encounter a wounded boatman as they drift across a mist-shrouded lake, who warns them of trouble ahead. Miyagi and her son opt then to remain behind, and the other three continue to town. From there, both men find their wildest dreams coming true Genjuro is taken in by a mysterious noblewoman, Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyo), who showers him with compliments, while Tobei uses his share of the pottery money to procure the armor he needs to finally become a warrior. But male selfishness doesn't pay in the long run both men eventually comes to realize the illusory nature of their misguided goals.
Ugetsu is clearly a product of the postwar Japanese mindset, and both Genjuro and Tobei are meant to represent different aspects of the madness which gripped the nation during the 1930s and 1940s. Genjuro is a war profiteer whose tunnel-vision only allows him to see how events can benefit him personally. Meanwhile, Tobei is the pathetic figure of the man who sees in military adventurism his only hope for glory or satisfaction. For those unfamiliar with his work, Mizoguchi's directing style is a revelation. From the opening shot, his camera moves with grace and confidence, in stark contrast to Ozu or even Kurosawa (at least during the 1950s). Mizoguchi hardly ever uses close-ups, allowing the action to unfold in extended single shots that never seem indulgent or excessive. Cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa a frequent collaborator during Mizoguchi's later years crafts magical black-and-white images, most notably the otherworldly boating scene and an equally surreal tableaux of Genjuro picnicking with Lady Wakasa in a lakefront setting right out of an ancient woodcut. It always seems like modern Hollywood composers could learn much from their Japanese counterparts of the '50s and '60s, and Fumio Hayasaka's powerful score, using only Japanese instruments, excels by knowing when to be bold and when to remain silent. The overall effect is that of a veteran, well-oiled filmmaking machine operating at the peak of its collective powers to create an unexpectedly moving film. It's only in the final reels that one realizes the spell Ugetsu has cast.
The Criterion Collection presents Ugetsu in its original Academy ratio (1.33:1), and the digitally remastered image is, for the most part, spectacularly smooth and free of defect. The Dolby Digital 1.0 Japanese soundtrack (with well-translated English subtitles) is also pleasant and acceptable. Within its handsome slipcase, Ugetsu includes three items. Disc One contains the feature film, as well as three interview segments. Director Masahiro Shinoda (Samurai Spy) offers an appreciation which depicts Mizoguchi as both a realist and a fantasist, compares him to Ozu, and spotlights Hayasaka's score (14 min.). Assistant director Tokuzo Tanaka provides somewhat bitter reminiscence of Mizoguchi's famously autocratic on-set style (20 min.). Both of these interviews mention the same anecdote: Mizoguchi showing off the scar on his back, received from a spurned lover years earlier, and saying "If you want to make films about women, you have to have one of these." In a 1992 interview, cinematographer Miyagawa discusses how Mizoguchi's images frequently resembled an e-maki, or Japanese picture scroll (10 min.). Critic and scholar Tony Rayns offers a scholarly talk on his commentary track, which doesn't provide any revelatory insights but proves valuable nonetheless: He discusses Mizoguchi's incorporation of some aspects of Hollywood style, as well as his (one-sided) sense of competition with the younger, more acclaimed Kurosawa. Disc Two contains Kenji Mizoguchi: The Life of a Filmmaker, a comprehensive feature-length 1975 documentary which comes at its subject through interviews with over 40 of his friends, collaborators, and acquaintances. The documentary's pace could be quicker, but it provides a history not only of Mizoguchi's life and work, but a fascinating look at the early years of Japanese cinema in general. The enclosed booklet contains a masterful essay by Philip Lopate, as well as the three short stories which formed the basis for Ugetsu: Akinari Ueda's "The House in the Thicket" and "A Serpent's Lust," and Guy de Maupassant's "How He Got the Legion of Honor." Ugetsu: The Criterion Collection is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: Disney's Chicken Little, the first computer-animated film from the legendary animation studio, soared to the top of the box-office chart over the weekend, beating expectations with a $40 million debut. The win outdistanced the frame's other new arrival, Universal's Jarhead starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard and Jamie Foxx, which took in a solid $28.7 million. But despite the strong receipts, critics weren't all that impressed with either entry Jarhead earned mixed notices, while Chicken Little's reviews were mixed-to-negative, getting skewered by a few writers.
In continuing release, Lions Gate's Saw II continues to be a surprise hit, holding down third place in its second weekend and adding $17.2 million to a $60.4 million gross, while Sony's The Legend of Zorro with Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones shored up in fourth place, tacking $10 million on to a $30.2 million tally. Universal's rom-com Prime with Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep rounded out the top five with $13.4 million so far. George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck moved up to seventh place with $11 million in the bag on only 650 screens, while Steve Martin's Shopgirl also worked its way into ninth place with $3.4 million in less than 500 locations. Fading fast is Paramount's The Weather Man starring Nicolas Cage, which hasn't cracked $9 million in two sessions. And dropping from sight just two weeks after its number-one debut is Sony/Universal's Doom starring Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, which will close under $25 million.
Curtis 'Fiddy Cent' Jackson arrives on the big screen this Wednesday in Get Rich or Die Tryin', while Friday debuts include Derailed with Clive 'Twelve Stone' Owen and Jennifer 'Thrupenny Bits' Aniston, as well as the family adventure Zathura. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: New spins this week from the gang include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Deluxe Edition, Christmas with the Kranks, Pickpocket: The Criterion Collection, The Missouri Breaks, Burn!, Après Vous, Ugetsu: The Criterion Collection, and Beavis and Butt-Head: Vol. 1: The Mike Judge Collection. All can be found under the New Reviews menu here on the front page.
Back tomorrow with the street discs.
Tuesday, 1 Nov. 2005
In the Works: Here's just a few new disc announcements, courtesy of Amazon.com and additional staff reports:
On the Street: If it looks like everybody has gotten way out of the way in order to let Fox and Lucasfilm's two-disc Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith clear out of everyone's Amazon.com shopping cart, you're probably right. Just a few more titles are worth your hard-earned lunch money, including Fox's Office Space: Special Edition and Millions, Paramount's The War of the Worlds: Special Edition, Aliens of the Deep from James Cameron and Buena Vista, and even perhaps Sex and the City: The Complete Series in a foot-crushing 20-disc set. Here's this morning's notable street discs: