Ah, Thanksgiving. You can always count on this special holiday, even in times of crushing economic woe, to reinvigorate the marketplace and get people spending again. It just makes me feel so warm inside. After all, there are now less than 30 days until the mother of all holidays. You can avoid putting up the lights or block out the holiday tunes at the mall but Christmas has hit the theatres. In fact, four Christmases have hit.
FOUR CHRISTMASES opened behind last week’s champ, TWILIGHT, on Wednesday, when it and a number of other releases entered the marketplace to capitalize on the holiday. It quickly took over on Thursday and led through the weekend for a $31 million debut and a $46 million five-day take. The critically-panned feature is Witherspoon’s return to comedy and a blatant attempt to recapture America’s hearts and it is Vince Vaughan’s second holiday feature in a row in his apparent course to be America’s family man. As obvious the choice is, FOUR CHRISTMASES has opened better than anything either has put out in ages so I’m sure the eggnog is flowing freely by the fire for these two this weekend – that is if they didn’t hate each other. I’m just telling you what I heard.
The next three positions in the Top 5 went to holdovers, which meant that the week’s two other wide releases had to settle for much less prestigious debuts. Baz Luhrmann returned to theatres for the first time since his 2001 Best Picture nominee, MOULIN ROUGE! with AUSTRALIA, a $120 million epic love story. Expensive epic disaster sounds more appropriate right now. This was considered to be a major box-office and award season contender and now it looks like it could end up being neither. Earning a modest but respectable $5,600 per screen average would ordinarily be a solid start but this costly mess needed a grand slam debut to recoup its costs. The fact that critics are split on it certainly didn’t help matters much and without award season kudos, Luhrmann won’t be getting any second helpings. Meanwhile, the TRANSPORTER series starring Jason Statham went back for thirds. The third and likely last installment brought in about $8 million less than its predecessor did in its opening frame. Even TRANSPORTER 3’s five-day take didn’t match the $20 million debut of TRANSPORTER 3. Still, the franchise is relatively cheap to produce so Jason Statham is still sitting pretty at the head of the B-list celebrity action stars table.
There was much to be thankful for if you almost any other movie in the Top 10. As expected (and desperately wished for by the Disney people), BOLT improved upon last week’s take and inched up a notch to the number two spot. Bond’s QUANTUM OF SOLACE saw a slight decline of just 27% as good working folk who had not had a chance to catch their favorite international spy finally made their way out to catch him. The cuddly if not irritating animals of MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA caught another wave of kids out of school for the break and only slipped off a scant 7%. And ROLE MODELS continued to make good on its strong word of mouth, dropping off just 28%. The most troubling stumble was also somewhat expected as the front heavy TWILIGHT plummeted over 62% in its second week. Still, $120 million is 10 days is a bloody mouthful.
Sure it’s great that a little film like THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS can spend two consecutive weeks in the Top 10, even improving in its second week. But it’s hard to take too much notice when two other even smaller releases are producing mind boggling numbers. Danny Boyle’s SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is becoming a surprise Best Picture contender and is stuck just outside the Top 10 for a second week at number eleven. On just 49 screens, SLUMDOG pulled in an average of almost $28K for a grand total of $3.6 million. All this before it has even gone wide. One other film though shut it out from the Top 10 it is gunning for so badly and that film is MILK. The buzz on this one is almost deafening and considering the controversial vote on Proposition 8 earlier this month in California, MILK, a biography of the first openly gay American politician, Harvey Milk, could not be more topical. Gus Van Sant and Sean Penn will likely see many reasons to celebrate as the weeks ahead unravel but whether they can reach BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN numbers remains to be seen.
NEXT WEEK: One needs at least one week to recover from this much consumption. This would explain why next week is pretty quiet. The widest release is the new PUNISHER movie (huh?). Aside from that, there are a couple of mid-size releases, CADILLAC RECORDS and NOBEL SON. At least the art house crowd can get excited over FROST / NIXON but it seems pickings will be slim so eat up now.
Written by Stuart Beattie and Baz Luhrmann Directed by Baz Luhrmann Starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Brandon Walters and David Wenham
The Drover: Oh, crikey!
Australia, the land down under. A land grand in size and rich in scenery. A land where kangaroos jump spryly alongside cars and aboriginal children go on walkabout without warning. Yes, this is Australia or at the very least, this is the clichéd representation of the country as per Baz Luhrmann’s AUSTRALIA, a film that is part epic romance and part homage to the country he calls home. Luhrmann shot to fame in the early 90’s with his first feature, STRICTLY BALLROOM, a film that took place down under and for a tiny fraction of what AUSTRALIA cost, was a more genuine insight into the people who reside there. Nearly twenty years later, his magic seems to have turned into madness as I can think of no other justification for Luhrmann reducing his home and its history into stereotypical schlock ready to serve to unintentionally naïve American audiences.
AUSTRALIA takes place in 1939, just before the Japanese attacked the country during the Second World War. Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman, whose performance is uneven but still engaging), is a British aristocrat who has traveled far from home to find her husband and bring him back. Her husband’s business in Australia got the best of him though and he has passed away. It is now up to this displaced diva to finish the job. She must put aside her dainty nature to rough it in the outback, herding cattle with a group of misfits, in order to take down corruption and monopolistic authorities running the cattle show. Throw in a steamy romance between Ashley and her main cattle handler (Hugh Jackman, easily earning his recent “Sexiest Man Alive” title), and you got yourself a movie. Well, you would have yourself a regular sized movie but this is Luhrmann’s opus, one which he seems conscious of the entire time. To fill the 2 hour and 45 minute run time, Luhrmann definitely throws in the romance but also adds racial issues, family drama, gender prejudice and a great war. It is boiling over with potential but missing the great deal of passion necessary to sustain itself.
After completing his Red Curtain Trilogy (including his first feature as well as WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S ROMEO + JULIET and MOULIN ROUGE!), Luhrmann wanted to tackle historical accounts in his next films. The first was to be a biography of Alexander the Great but Oliver Stone beat him to that a few years back. Luhrmann then turned to his origins for inspiration instead and AUSTRALIA was born. The Red Curtain Trilogy was defined by style and theme. While Luhrmann hasn’t abandoned his dedication to love in AUSTRALIA, Luhrmann did set aside the signature schizophrenic style that made distinct lovers and haters of all who watched his works. Baz Luhrmann without everything that made him who he was is almost unrecognizable or unidentifiable even. You can almost feel him fighting with himself to tone down the extremities of the scenarios or slowing the speed of the story. The camera will move quickly all of a sudden but is reeled back in just as quickly. AUSTRALIA becomes a lesson in shame, one that I never expected from a man who so vehemently campaigned for truth and self in the past. By trying to be something he isn’t, Luhrmann only succeeded in losing his voice.
AUSTRALIA is a solid effort, sturdy on its feet but a slow and steady stride instead of the adventure it so clearly wants to be. It can be touching; it can be somewhat moving even; but it feels mostly as vague and meandering as the outback is vast. It is too theatrical and forced to be firmly historical and too unsure of itself to be genuinely effective. It is the most misguided mediocrity I’ve even seen go on for nearly three hours. I felt very little, learned even less; It was like being on an adventure where barely anything seemed to happen but you still appreciate the potential afforded by being there.. I just wish that the Baz I grew to know and love felt like he had come along for the ride because I feel like we didn’t spend any time together at all.
In the midst of America's yearly tribute to gluttony and greed, the Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend, I bring to you my second annual holiday season gift guide. This year, I've tried to focus on the items that might not be among the most obvious, but deserve attention. In other words, you don't need me to tell you to run out and grab Hellboy II or I Am Legend. But here are some ideas that you may have overlooked:
Resident Evil 3-Pack - DVD, $29.95 (Blu-Ray elitists got this set earlier this year, but this is the first time DVD luddites can own the nu-zombie trilogy of RE, RE: Apocalypse & RE: Extinction. Available 12/9.) Vampyr Special Edition - DVD, $39.95 (Not my cup of tea, but this last gasp of German Expressionism is a revered early favorite, with its first deluxe DVD treatment.) Night Gallery Season 2 - DVD, $59.98 (The newly released second installment of Rod Serling's other landmark horror/sci-fi series.) Oasis of the Zombies - DVD, $9.99 (This piece of Nazi/zombie trash, reissued for the first time since 2001, is worth seeing for a laugh. And wisely priced at under $10.) Lights Out, Vol. 3 & 4 - DVD, $7.98 each (The long-awaited follow-up installments of one of TV's earliest horror series, based on the classic radio series of the '40s. Each DVD contains four episodes.) Dark Shadows: The Beginning Vol. 6, DVD $59.98 (For the stark raving Dark Shadows fanatic in your life, this is the final collection of DS episodes from the earliest era of the soap, before Barnabas Collins showed up and changed the course of the series. Contains episodes 179-209, from the spring of 1967.) The Terror - Blu-Ray, $11.98 (On Blu-Ray for the first time, it's Roger Corman's classic. See Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholshon on screen together!) The Beyond - DVD, $24.95 (It's the spiffy new edition of Lucio Fulci's masterwork. Having just caught this gem for the first time, I can't recommend it highly enough to fan's of exploitation horror.)
Sookie Stackhouse Boxed Set - Paperbacks, $55.93 (The seven books of Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries, the inspiration for HBO's True Blood. Available for $39.15 at bn.com!) Wolves at the Gate - Graphic novel, $15.95 (The third collection of Joss Whedon's history-making "Season 8" of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, told in comic book form.) The Living Dead - Paperback, $15.95 (An excellent anthology of zombie fiction featuring stories by the likes of Stephen King, Joe Hill, George R.R. Martin, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Harlan Ellison and Poppy Z. Brite. The hottest horror anthology on shelves today.) Let the Right One In - Paperback, $15.95 (By Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, translated into English by Ebba Segerberg. The novel that led to the movie of the same name.)
Flesh Eating Zombies - Action figures, $17.99 (A nine-piece set of hard vinyl, 3 1/4-inch zombie figures. Fun for the whole family!) Cthulhu Plush Slippers - $36.99 (The price may be a bit steep, but what do you expect? Wearing Lovecraft's undying beast from beyond on your feet doesn't come cheap!) Michael Myers Head Knocker - Bobblehead, $12.59 (It's a Michael Myers bobblehead. 'Nuff said.)
Baz Luhrmann may not be a household name. Give it a second though to explain a little who the man is and anyone who has seen his films has an opinion on him and his intense sense of style. He incites more polarized reactions from film fanatics than most of his contemporaries and even his detractors will accord him the title of auteur. After all, what should incite that title other than a unique way of seeing things and a distinct way of getting those things across? In 1992, Luhrmann gave the world his first feature, STRICTLY BALLROOM. It cost barely anything to make and it grabbed the world by the waist and spun it around the dance floor so many times that it left the world in a dizzy haze. Sixteen years later, Luhrmann is one of the big boys, making movies that cost well over $100 million to produce. On the eve of his latest and first film in seven years, AUSTRALIA, Black Sheep Reviews takes a moment to catch its breath and take a look back at Luhrmann’s first three films that, when grouped together, are otherwise known as the Red Curtain Trilogy.
STRICTLY BALLROOM opens the Red Curtain Trilogy by literally opening with a red curtain. The curtain is pulled and we open on a near-full silhouette of two competitive dance couples. The men in black tuxedos stand tall and strong while the women in colorful ruffles bring fluidity to their opposing stiffness. The whole image is framed behind French doors and it is clear within the first few frames that Luhrmann is man with flare, style and both an eye and an appreciation for beauty. One of the men behind the door is Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio), a young dancer who has worked his whole life to take home the Pan-Pacific trophy for Best Ballroom Dancer. Everything in his life and everyone that surrounds him has played a part in making this happen but Scott has come to an untimely realization. In order to wine the Pan-Pacific competition, he must dance the ballroom steps as strictly as they are meant to be but his feet can no longer adhere to such rigid expectations. They have a rhythm all their own and they can no longer stand still. And with this, Luhrmann lets us see the side of him that will guide us through the rest of this trilogy. Love, above all else, be that the love of another person or the love that lives inside of you that inspires the passion you must pursue, is the only thing in life that matters.
STRICTLY BALLROOM earned Luhrmann countless year-end accolades, including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Musical/Comedy (which it lost to MRS. DOUBTFIRE). Of course, this opened many a backstage door for Luhrmann and before long, his next project was announced. What does a man who values love above all else tackle as the second part in his homage to one of life’s greatest mysteries? Simple; he decided to tell the greatest love story ever told, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S ROMEO + JULIET. Only Luhrmann can’t do simple. His take on the bard would be decidedly modern, moving the classic from fair Verona to Verona Beach in Southern California. The tale would be told in present day; swords would be traded for guns and kinsmen would become posses. And just when it seemed that Luhrmann could not disparage this masterpiece any further, he cast the young teen idols, Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the title roles. It could have been a huge disaster but it ends up being one of the most effective Shakespearean adaptations in recent history. Luhrmann’s insightful understanding of the brilliant source material pours out of his beautiful leads and allows for Shakespeare to be not only enjoyed but understood by the adolescent market. By successfully recontextualizing ROMEO + JULIET from the stage to the streets, Luhrmann reminded audiences why Shakespeare is timeless. It’s also innately and achingly romantic but that goes without saying when Luhrmann is involved.
The curtain returns for one last time with 2001’s Best Picture nominee, MOULIN ROUGE! This time, a musical conductor stands in front of it guides an orchestra through an overture that ushers in one of the most original musicals in history. It is Paris at the turn of the 20th century. The Moulin Rouge is more than just a name, it is a place where men and women find company in strangers’ arms and empty their pockets before they turn for home. It is home to extravagance, elegance and decadence. It is all so lavish and dramatic; it all so quintessentially Baz Luhrmann. While the film is certainly boisterous enough on its own, it comes alive all over again the moment Ewan McGregor opens his mouth to sing. Though he is singing the Elton John’s “Your Song” or the title track from “The Sound of Music”, it is as through the words that are coming out of his mouth have never been said before or never had this particular meaning and depth. Reappropriating modern lyrics we’ve all heard before grounds them tonally as though they are connected thoughts and not just catchy tunes. Ever the romantic, McGregor makes the error of falling in love with a courtesan (Nicole Kidman) and she in turn makes the mistake of falling for McGregor’s penniless writer. When love calls though, you cannot fight against its choices no matter how certain you are that it is wrong. MOULIN ROUGE! epitomizes the values that were introduced in the two previous installments of this trilogy – beauty, freedom, truth and love. These are the true bohemian ideals and Luhrmann is the modern day king of the true bohemians.
When we go for a show, we sit, we wait and we stare at the red curtain before it opens to show us all its secrets. Lurhmann grew up behind that curtain, having been raised by parents heavily involved in the arts and now he has also grown up as a director in the same place with these three films. It is as though his unique view were born by realizing that following your passion is the only path to happiness; that this passion went through a young and rebellious stage; and that it eventually settled in to its true nature and accepted all of its own transformative power. Lurhmann is an artist’s artist. He gave us dance, theatre and music and he did it all the way that only he could. And when the curtain closes, the audience is left with only one thing – love.
Christmas Group Show 04.12.08 - 21.12.08 After a fantastic year at StolenSpace Gallery, their Christmas group show this year will be literally filled to the brim with new works from over 30 represented artists, plus a few new faces as a small taster of what is to come in 2009.
Proposed artists -
* ALEX THORNTON * ALEXONE * ANDREW BRANDOU * ANDREW McATTEE * BRAD DOWNEY * CHARLES KRAFFT * CHRIS ANTHONY * CHRIS MENDOZA * D*FACE * DAN WITZ * DAVID BRAY * GERALD LAING * HAROUN HAWARD * HELLOVON * JEFF SOTO * MERYL DONOGHUE * MIKE LEAVITT * MR JAGO * MYSTERIOUS AL * PETE FOWLER * RONZO * ROSTARR * RUSSELL MAURICE * RYAN BUBNIS * SAN * SEEN * SHEPARD FAIREY * SUNNY & KAI * VITCHE * WILL BARRAS * WORD TO MOTHER
STOLENSPACE GALLERY Dray Walk, The Old Truman Brewery 91 Brick Lane London E1 6QL United Kingdom
It hasn't made any waves yet here in the states, but the interesting little indy flick Chemical Wedding, in which Simon Callow plays the literal reincarnation of the infamous Aleister Crowley, has recently come to DVD after a successful theatrical run in the UK over the summer.
Blabbermouth.net reports that Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson, who wrote and produced the film, was in France on Wednesday to promote the release there. He held a screening and a press conference, in which he also talked about the new distribution deals attached to the picture. For one, Anchor Bay will be handling the U.S. distribution, which I assume means it'll be straight-to-video. Whatever the format, expect it in early 2009.
Here's the UK commercial for the DVD, which hit there in September:
Looks kind of cheeseball, but in a potentially classic way.
The Italian national football team is controlled by the Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio (FIGC) and represents Italy in international football competition. They are the current World Champions, having won the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Italy is among the top teams in international football and the second most successful national team in the history of the World Cup having won four (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006), just one fewer than Brazil. To this tally they can add one European championship (1968), one Olympic football tournament (1936) and two (defunct) Central European International Cups.(Wikipedia)