Review of J
Film fans head for 'Rio,' shrug over new 'Scream'
LOS ANGELES - Movie fans are going to "Rio" in big numbers, but they're not quite screaming over the latest installment of a horror-comedy franchise.
The 20th Century Fox animated family flick "Rio," featuring the voices of Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg, led the weekend box office with a healthy $40 million debut, according to studio estimates Sunday.
It was the best debut so far this year, topping another animated comedy, "Rango," by about $2 million.
The slasher comedy "Scream 4," released by the Weinstein Co. banner Dimension Films, opened at No. 2 with just $19.3 million. That's a fraction of the business for the previous two sequels, which both debuted at over $30 million more than a decade ago.
Business finally climbed for Hollywood, which has been in a prolonged slide. Revenues rose for only the second time since last November, coming in at $134 million, up 12 percent compared to the same weekend last year, when "Kick-Ass" led with $19.8 million.
"I'm going to be so bold as to say this may be the beginning of the turnaround," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. "Summer's almost here and it's the most important movie-going season. It couldn't be coming at a better time."
After two weekends in the No. 1 spot, Russell Brand's Easter bunny tale "Hop" slipped to third-place with $11.2 million. Released by Universal, "Hop" raised its total to $82.6 million.
The weekend's other new wider release, director Robert Redford's Lincoln-assassination drama "The Conspirator," premiered at No. 9 with $3.9 million. The movie stars Robin Wright and James McAvoy in a courtroom tale of a woman accused of aiding Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth.
Released by Roadside Attractions, "The Conspirator" played in narrower release of 707 theaters, roughly one-fifth the cinema count for the weekend's top three movies.
"Rio" opened well above Fox studio expectations. A tale of romance and smuggling involving rare birds, "Rio" opened overseas a week earlier and has climbed to a $168 million total worldwide.
"It's working in every country on the planet," said Fox distribution executive Bert Livingston. "It's G-rated, which means it's for everybody."
With many children out of school over the next week leading into Easter, "Rio" has solid playing time ahead of it, Livingston said.
Receipts for "Scream 4" came in a bit under industry expectations and well below the $30-million-plus openings for "Scream 2" and "Scream 3."
"Would we have liked to have done more? Yeah, absolutely, but I don't think anyone was expecting $30 million," said Erik Lomis, head of distribution for the Weinstein Co. "But I think it's a solid opening, particularly given how the films have been performing lately in the marketplace. R-rated films have been having a tougher time."
"Scream 4" reunites the stars of the original three movies — Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette — and adds new young cast members including Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin.
The movie hurls the cast into a fresh blood fest as bodies pile up in a manner mimicking events of the first movie.
An 11-year hiatus since "Scream 3" may have created a disconnect between the franchise and the typically young horror crowd. Just 54 percent of the audience was under 25, a segment that typically accounts for about 75 percent of horror fans, Lomis said.
Weinstein executives are hoping word of mouth among those younger viewers will bring in new fans and carry the movie along in the coming weeks. That's what happened with the original "Scream," which opened with just $6.4 million in 1996 but became a $100 million word-of-mouth hit.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Rio," $40 million.
2. "Scream 4," $19.3 million.
3. "Hop," $11.2 million.
4. "Soul Surfer," $7.4 million.
5. "Hanna," $7.3 million.
6. "Arthur," $6.94 million.
7. "Insidious," $6.9 million.
8. "Source Code," $6.3 million.
9. "The Conspirator," $3.92 million.
10. "Your Highness," $3.9 million.
A witchy brew of madness and cunning, “Black Swan” tells the story of a ballerina who aches, with battered feet and an increasingly crowded head, to break out of the corps. Played by Natalie Portman in a smashing, bruising, wholly committed performance, the young dancer, Nina, looks more like a child than a woman, her flesh as undernourished as her mind. When she goes to bed at night, a nearby jewelry box tinkling “Swan Lake,” a crowd of stuffed animals watches over her, longtime companions that — as Nina and this dementedly entertaining film grow more unhinged — begin to look more like jailers than friends.
Crammed with twins — lookalikes, mirrored images, doppelgängers — the story follows that of the “Swan Lake” ballet in broad, gradually warped strokes. It opens with the artistic director of a fictional New York ballet company, Thomas (Vincent Cassel), announcing that the new season will begin with a “visceral and real” version of that old favorite. To that end he dumps his prima ballerina, Beth (Winona Ryder), and picks Nina to dance the dual role of the swan queen (an enchanted woman in bird form) and her villainous black twin. But as the pressure builds, things fall apart, or Nina does. She stumbles out of a spin and begins scratching at her skin. One day she strips a piece from her finger as lightly as if she were peeling a banana.
Part tortured-artist drama, “Black Swan” looks like a tony art-house entertainment. (Hey, there’s Lincoln Center!) But what gives it a jolt is its giddy, sometimes sleazy exploitation-cinema savvy. The director Darren Aronofsky is a well-schooled cinéaste, and in “Black Swan” he riffs on Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s ballet masterpiece, “The Red Shoes,” and the pair’s “Black Narcissus,” among other influences. But it’s also likely that Mr. Aronofsky, who was born in 1969 and grew up in Brooklyn, frequented Times Square when it was known as the deuce and lined with movie palaces playing the best and worst in trash cinema. I bet he also caught a few episodes of the “Red Shoe Diaries” on cable.
That isn’t a knock. One of the pleasures of “Black Swan” is its lack of reverence toward the rarefied world of ballet, which to outsiders can look as lively as a crypt. Mr. Aronofsky makes this world (or his version of it) exciting partly by pulling back the velvet curtains and showing you the sacrifices and crushingly hard work that goes into creating beautiful dances. Nina doesn’t just pirouette prettily, she also cracks her damaged toes (the sound design picking up every crackle and crunch) and sticks her fingers down her throat to vomit up her food. Mostly, though, she trains hard, hammering her toe shoes into floor much as Jake La Motta pounded his fists into flesh. She’s a contender, but also a martyr to her art.
Mr. Aronofsky is happy to see her bleed. A filmmaker who likes to play around with genre while mixing the highbrow with the lowdown and dirty, he has built a small, vivid catalog by exploring human extremes with wildly uneven degrees of visual wow, sensitivity and intelligence. He trawled the lower depths in “Requiem for a Dream” and struggled to scale the metaphysical heights with “The Fountain,” a fable about eternal (as in, when will it end?) love. For his previous movie, “The Wrestler,” he proved his commercial smarts by taking Mickey Rourke out of deep freeze and dusting off a comeback story that was old when Wallace Beery wiped Jackie Cooper’s runny nose with the script for “The Champ.”
“Black Swan,” by contrast, surprises despite its lusty or rather sluttish predilection for clichés, which include the requisitely demanding impresario (Mr. Cassel makes a model cock of the walk) and Nina’s ballerina rival, Lily (Mila Kunis, as a succulent, borderline rancid peach). But, oh, what Mr. Aronofsky does with those clichés, which he embraces, exploits and, by a squeak, finally transcends.
Such is his faith in his ability to surmount the obvious (and the lethally blunt) that he turns Nina’s mother, Erica (a terrific Barbara Hershey), into a smother-mother who out-crazies Faye Dunaway’s Joan Crawford in the mommy dearest department. You don’t know whether to laugh or shriek (both are reasonable responses), and it is this uncertainty and at times delicious unease that proves to be Mr. Aronofsky’s sweet spot.
It’s easy to read “Black Swan” as a gloss on the artistic pursuit of the ideal. But take another look, and you see that Mr. Aronofsky is simultaneously telling that story straight, playing with the suffering-artist stereotype and having his nasty way with Nina, burdening her with trippy psychodrama and letting her run wild in a sexcapade that will soon be in heavy rotation on the Web. The screenplay, by Mark Heyman, Andrés Heinz and John McLaughlin, invites pop-psychological interpretations about women who self-mutilate while striving for their perfect selves, a description that seems to fit Nina. But such a reading only flattens a film that from scene to scene is deadly serious, downright goofy and by turns shocking, funny and touching.
We love this movie! And the grade is a A!
Red Riding Hood 2011
For decades, the people of the village of Daggerhorn have maintained an uneasy truce with the werewolf, who prowls at every full moon, by offering the beast a monthly animal sacrifice to quench its appetite. But under a blood red moon, the wolf changes the stakes by taking the life of one of their own.
The victim is the older sister of Valerie, a beautiful, young woman, who has just found out that her parents have arranged for her to marry Henry, the scion of the town's wealthiest family. But Valerie wants only Peter, the poor woodcutter she has loved all her life. Unwilling to be parted, the couple was planning to run away together, but, in a horrifying instant, the wolf changes everything.
As the townspeople hunger for revenge, famed werewolf hunter Father Solomon is summoned to Daggerhorn to kill the beast once and for all. But Solomon's arrival brings only more turmoil as he warns everyone that the werewolf takes human form by day and could be any one of them. No one is above suspicion. Panic grips the town as the death toll rises with each red moon, tearing apart the once close-knit village. But it is Valerie who discovers she has a unique connection to the wolf that inexorably draws them together, making her both suspect... and bait.
Genres: Romance, Suspense/Horror and Adaptation
Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.
Release Date: March 11th, 2011 (wide)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality.
Warner Bros Pictures
Southern Belle Dish give this movie a B! We liked it