ANGELS & DEMONS BEATS STAR TREK
Just as moviegoers paid no attention to critics or conservative Catholics when The Da Vinci Code opened three years ago, they turned out mass-ively for Angels & Demons over the weekend, ignoring nearly universal condemnation by reviewers for the major newspapers and by the Catholic League, the nation's largest Catholic lay organization (although the official Vatican newspaper dismissed it as harmless). The Sony movie, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, grossed an estimated $48 million domestically and a whopping $104.3 million overseas, performing the strongest in Catholic countries, according to Daily Variety. While the sequel did not come close to equaling Da Vinci's opening tally ($77 million domestically and $155 million overseas), it came in at the high end of analysts' forecasts and its foreign gross was by far the biggest of any film this year. Meanwhile, Angels & Demons received strong competition from Paramount's Star Trek, which took in about $43 million in its second weekend, to bring its 10-day total to $147.6 million. It actually outperformed Angels on Saturday and may also have done so on Sunday (final figures are due to be released later today). Nearly 12 percent of Star Trek's gross has come from higher-priced tickets in IMAX theaters, but it is being evicted from those theaters next weekend by Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Coming in at No. 3 was the third week of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which earned $14.8 million, down 44 percent from the previous week. Opening in limited release, the Jennifer Aniston comedy Management took in an unfriendly $378,000 in 212 theaters. Overall, the box office continued on its hot streak, with ticket sales up about 4 percent over the comparable weekend a year ago.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Box Office Mojo:
1. Angels & Demons, $48 million; 2. Star Trek, $43 million; 3. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, $14.8 million; 4. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, $6.9 million; 5. Obsessed, $4.6 million; 6. 17 Again, $3.4 million; 7. Monsters vs. Aliens, $3 million; 8. The Soloist, $2.4 million; 9. Next Day Air, $2.2 million; 10. Earth, $1.7 million.
MOVIE REVIEWS: MANAGEMENT
Virtually all the reviews of Management discuss the odd casting of Jennifer Aniston opposite Steve Zahn. And there is widespread disagreement whether it works. On the one hand, Elizabeth Weitzman comments in the New York Daily News: "It's to everyone's credit that by the time the movie is over, you'll wonder why they were never paired together before." On the other hand, Kyle Smith in the New York Post writes: "The film is a failure if it can't convince us that these two people belong together. It can't, and barely tries, because its characters are mere types meant to illustrate the blankness of corporate life and how desperately it needs zany free spirits to show it the way." Most of the reviews are of the so-so variety. Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal calls it "modestly enjoyable." Other critics employ the words "sweet" and "creepy" alternately to describe it. And Mick La Salle observes in the San Francisco Chronicle: "A week from now, no one will be talking about Management and that's an easy guess, because no one is talking about it even now. With Star Trek, Angels and Demons and Terminator Salvation sucking all the available oxygen at the multiplexes, the only real chance Management ever had was to be a masterpiece, and, like most movies, it just isn't."
CRITICS NOT TAKEN WITH TAKING WOODSTOCK
Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival over the weekend, failed to touch off anything approaching the admiration among critics that his recent Brokeback Mountain and Lust, Caution did. A typical reaction was Sukhdev Sandhu's in the London Telegraph, who wrote that the movie is "almost too sweet for its own good, tasteful rather than transcendental." Daily Variety described it as "mild nostalgia at most, a curiously unambitious misfire." Lee told a Cannes news conference that he wanted to present "a romantic image of the late '60s, the last piece of innocence we had." (Yet the movie ends with a reference to the violence-plagued Altamont music festival, which took place a few months later -- the "anti-Woodstock," as it is sometimes called.) The plot takes place on the periphery of the music festival, and while Lee effectively recreates visually the initial psychedelic experience of the lead character, he makes no attempt to convey the sense of emotional and metaphysical fusion that virtually everyone who attended the festival describes to this day. Many of his scenes mimic the split-screen views of the festival goers presented in Michael Wadleigh's 1970 documentary. Lee said he used about 200 extras for those scenes and prepped them in what he called a "hippy camp." That, said Lee, was "the most challenging thing to do." Writer/producer James Schamus added that it was difficult casting young people today who looked like those in the documentary. "When you think about it, a generation of people who weren't fat, who weren't staring at themselves in the mirror all the time, and not shaving everything off down there, it captures the difference of 40 years right there."
HOT BOX OFFICE, COOL SALES
The box office may be performing far better than the Dow, but you'd never know it from accounts about business at the Cannes Film Market, which is staged concurrently with the Cannes Film Festival. According to the British trade publication Screen Digest, buyers are "train[ing] their sights on completed [films] with broad theatrical appeal." There's general agreement that it's a buyer's market this year. Simon Crow of U.K.-based SC Films told Screen Digest: "In this market, you've got to be realistic. No one will be overpaying." Daily Variety put its finger on the source of the problem: "The hedge-fund-backed guys have fallen away." Several reports suggest that the funding fount for filmmakers has switched from them to investors in India and the Emirates.