Gone Girl is found at the top spot in the UK

image-400x265Hitting the box office charts hard is American mystery thriller Gone Girl, which delivered the biggest opening weekend since The Inbetweeners 2 back in August, debuting with £4,109,628. Adapted by Gillian Flynn, who wrote the 2012 novel of the same name, it was directed by David Fincher, whose previous openers include The Social Network with £2.49m. The film has just missed the £4.32m debut of Fincher’s last film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, although that figure was inflated by four days of previews as opposed to Gone Girl’s two.

It stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, and Carrie Coon and the plot unfolds after a man (Affleck) sees the spotlight turned on him when his wife’s (Pike) disappearance becomes the focus of an intense media circus and it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.

The film examines dishonesty, the media, the economy’s effects on marriage, and media appearances. The film opened the 52nd New York Film Festival, receiving high profile press coverage and early positive reviews. Jason Kosner of UK Screen states, “When a story is this well told, it seems a bit churlish to begrudge the film-makers another few minutes of self-indulgence and the odd moment of cinematic shorthand can be excused. Gone Girl is one of those rare films that’s likely to please audiences, critics and awards bodies equally.”

American dark action fantasy Dracula Untold came up trumps in second place after making £1,713,283 despite a lack of strong marketable names and little seen by critics. It is, however, a long way behind the debut of Van Helsing in May 2004 (£5.43m), which was a much-hyped creature feature and featured A-lister Hugh Jackman.

The film stars Luke Evans, who portrays the title character, with Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper and Samantha Barks in supporting roles. It steers away from the focus on Irish novelist Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, the film creates an origin story for its title character, Count Dracula, by portraying the story of Vlad the Impaler, who uses dark powers to protect his family and kingdom.

The release date was changed four times to finally October 10, 2014, to give the film three weeks of play before Halloween.

Dracula Untold received a mixture of reviews from critics, with most praising Luke Evans’ performance, the storyline and the visuals, but criticising Dracula’s characterisation and pointing out many plot holes. The consensus on Rotten Tomatoes stated, “Neither awful enough to suck nor sharp enough to bite, Dracula Untold misses the point of its iconic character’s deathless appeal.”

Denzel Washington’s thriller The Equalizer falls one to third place bringing in another £1,207,139 adding to its total in the UK of £4,280,077.

The film also stars Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Haley Bennett, Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo and is based on the television series of same name.

The plot follows a man (Washington), who believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when he meets a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by – he has to help her.

The Boxtrolls hits fourth on its fourth weekend on release with £983,015 taking it’s gross to £6,093,123, which compares with lifetime totals of other stop motion animations such as £7.5m for Coraline and £6.3m for ParaNorman.

Falling to fifth is British comedy What We Did on Our Holiday which brought in £728,228 last weekend, to make a gross of £2,083,907 from cinema ticket sales in the UK so far. It was written and directed by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin who created BBC sitcom Outnumbered, and the success led to the pair getting to make the film which features similar improvisational techniques and also features two London parents and their three young children.

New entry at sixth place comes from Hindi action thriller Bang Bang which debuted with £602,193. It’s the biggest opening for a Bollywood film since Dhoom 3 (£885,000) last December and is an official remake of the Hollywood film Knight and Day and features Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif in the lead roles performed by Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz respectively in the original. In India, Bang Bang! received positive to mixed reviews from critics praising its action sequences and performances while it was criticised by some for its story and screenplay. A review from India Times stated, “It has some ‘must-haves’ of a pot-boiler, but misses the real thing – a solid story.”

New in seventh place is American family drama Dolphin Tale 2, written and directed by Charles Martin Smith and a sequel to his 2011 film Dolphin Tale. The sequel made £536,766 on its opening weekend. Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Kris Kristofferson, Morgan Freeman, Juliana Harkavy, Austin Stowell and Austin Highsmith all reprise their roles from the first film while Lee Karlinsky, Julia Jordan, and Bethany Hamilton join the cast. The film tells the story of another dolphin, taken in by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, named ‘Hope’. The film was received generally positively with Mark Kermode of The Observer stating, “As before, there are mirrored tribulations above and below the water line, with life lessons learned en route. It doesn’t have the focus or splash of the original, but Charles Martin Smith’s sequel winningly wears its heart on its sleeve`.”

Third week on release and down to eighth place for Liam Neeson’s crime thriller A Walk Among the Tombstones as it made just £310,261. The film, which is based on a novel of the same name by Lawrence Block, follows private investigator Matthew Scudder (Neeson) who is hired by a drug kingpin (Dan Stevens) to find out who kidnapped and murdered his wife. A Walk Among the Tombstones has made a gross of £3,364,093 in the UK to date.

Guardians of the Galaxy celebrates its tenth week on the charts with £277,419 bringing it to ninth place, and amassing £28,168,896 from its UK run.

Rounding off the top ten is British film Pride which brought in £248,654 and on its fourth week on release has totalled £3,265,317.

The good news of the box office figures looking up, is set to continue. This weekend, we will see the release of young adult adaptation The Maze Runner, already a significant hit in the US and elsewhere, American supernatural horror Annabelle, both a prequel and spin off of The Conjuring, and presented as event cinema, One Direction: Where We Are – The Concert Film. Also we have Hugh Grant starring in romantic comedy The Rewrite, Dakota Fanning in period drama Effie Gray, Susan Sarandon in crime thriller The Calling and Jack O’Connell in the much-buzzed Belfast-set ’71.

Ben Affleck is the new Batman

Ben Affleck

Actor-director Ben Affleck will play the Dark Knight in the upcoming sequel of Man of Steel, which will feature the two superheros, Batman and Superman, for the first time.

The 41-year-old star will be replacing Christian Bale, and will face 30-year-old Henry Cavil, who will reprise the role of Superman.

Zack Snyder, who will be directing the blockbuster, said in a statement: “Ben provides an interesting counter-balance to Henry’s Superman. He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne, I can’t wait to work with him.”

Ben Affleck’s movie, Argo, won the Oscar for Best Picture this year. He also shared an Oscar with Matt Damon for writing Good Will Hunting in 1998. He may also direct Justice League.

The Batman-Superman project was announced last month at Comic Con. It will open worldwide on July 17, 2015.

Ben Affleck talks politics: Argo, The Middle-East and Hollywood.(Video)



In this interview, I discuss with Ben Affleck his Golden Globe winning movie, Argo, which revolves around the rescue of 7 American, who took refuge at the Canadian Ambassador home, after their embassy was stormed by angry Iranian demonstrators in 1979.

Ben Affleck, who graduated from Harvard in Middle-Eastern studies, reflects on the state of the Middle-East these days and the US involvement there. He also comments on Hollywood’s portrayal of Arabs and Muslims in the movies.

DGA announces 2013 Best Director nominations

Directors Guild of America (DGA) has announced today its nominations for Best Director: Steven Spielberg for Lincoln, Ben Affleck for Argo, Tom Hooper for Les Miserables, Ang Lee for Life of Pi and Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty.

All the above directors have been already recognized by other guilds and organizations. Notably missing in this list are Quentin Tarantino and David O’Russell for Django Unchained and Silver Linings Playbook respectively. The two directors, who received Golden Globes nods last month, have high hopes for Oscar recognition, but their absence in the DGA nominations may hurt their chances due to the substantial overlap between the DGA and the Academy membership. In fact, history showed that DGA nominated pictures often end up being nominated by the academy for best director.

Four of this year’s nominated directors have already won the DGA award in the past: Spielberg for The Color Purple in 1985, Schindler’s List in 1993 and Saving Private Ryan in 1998; Ang Lee for Crouching Hidden Tiger in 2000 and Brokeback Mountain in 2005; Tom Hooper for The Kings Speech in 2011; Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2009.

The 65th DGA award for best director will be announced on Feb. 2 at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood. Actor Kelsey Grammer is the host.




Zero Dark Thirty triumphs at the National Board of – Review awards

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty, which dramatises the events leading to the killing of Osama Bin Laden,  won the best picture of 2012 at the National Board of Review awards. It also took the Best Director Award for Kathryn Bigelow, Best Actress for Jessica Chastain. who plays  the CIA agent hunting Bin Laden.

This was the second honouring of the film, having won the best picture, best director and best cinematography at the New York Critics Circle earlier this week.

Zero Dark Thirty’s early successes makes it a front runner in the Oscar race. Kathryn Bigelow’s last movie, The Hurt Locker, won 6 Academy Awards in 2009.

The group bestowed the Best Actor award on Bradley Cooper from Silver Linings Playbook. The director of the movie, David O’Russell, took the trophy for the Best Adapted Screenplay, while Rian Johnson, the director of sci-fi thriller Looper, was awarded for the Best Original Screenplay.

Leonardo Dicaprio won the Best Supporting Actor for playing a slave owner in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.

Argo’s star and director, Ben Affleck received the accolade for Special Achievement in filmmaking, while the cast of the musical Les Miserables won the Best Ensemble award.

The National Board of Review, which was formed in 1930, is the US’s longest-established critics awards. Its accolades are currently voted on by its 150 members, comprising film enthusiasts, film-makers, academics and students.

Taken 2 beats Argo in the box office

Liam Neeson in Take 2

Critical darling and Oscar buzz king, Argo, failed to dethrone Taken 2, which held to the crown of domestic and foreign box offices for the second consecutive weekend, drawing $22.5 million (total 86.8) and $41 million (total $132.8) respectively.

Starring Liam Neeson, the action sequel follows a CIA agent, who has to rescue his kidnapped wife from his enemies while vacationing in Istanbul.

Ben Affleck’s political thriller Argo was not far behind in the second spot, opening in the US to a strong $20.1 million.  The critically acclaimed historical film is based on the real-life story of CIA agent Tony Mendez (played by Affleck) who contrived a plan to rescue 6 US embassy employees, who had escape to the Canadian Ambassador’s house when their embassy was invaded by Iranian demonstrators following the 1979 revolutions.

The third spot was claimed by horror flick Sinister, which debuted to $18.3 in the US. The film centers on a true-crime writer (Ethan Hawke) whose family plunged into danger after he finds a box of gruesome home movies.

Animated family comedy Hotel Transylvania showed no sign of slowing down in its third weekend, capturing the fourth spot and grossing $17.3 million in the US and taking the third spot with $13.7 million overseas. The film’s total so far has reached $100 million in the US and $49.3 million in foreign markets.

Voiced by Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez and Kevin James, the 3D film seas classic monsters gathering at a Hotel in Transylvania to celebrate Dracula’s daughter birthday.

Another Kevin James starrer, Here Comes the Boom, which was also produced by Adam Sandler, opened soft in the fifth spot with $12 million. The comedy follows a high school biology teacher, who takes on mixed-martial art fighting in order to raise money to prevent extra-curricular activities.

In the meantime, the international market witnessed a smashing debut of Tsunami disaster movie, Impossible,  which shot to the second spot with $13.4 million. Starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, the film, which tells the real-life story of a family reunification after a shattering experience during the 2003 Tsunami, made all its money in Spain, where it had been produced.

Ben Affleck’s Argo fires up Canadians at TIFF

Argo, one of the most talked about movies at Toronto International Film Festival was premiered last night at the Roy Thompson Hall.

Ben Affleck in Argo

The political thriller is based on the true story of the 6 Americans who succeeded in fleeing the US embassy in Tehran when it was stormed by Iranian demonstrators, following the toppling of the Shah in 1979. The escapees took refuge in the Canadian ambassador’s home, until they were smuggled out of Iran by CIA operative Tony Mendes (played by Ben Affleck).

Ending with a thank you note to Canada for assisting in saving the 6 Americans, the film received a rapturous applause by the Canadian audience. The nail-biting, suspenseful film was also praised by critics and is predicted by many to dominate the upcoming awards season.

Before the screening, director Ben Affleck, accompanied by his wife, actress Jennifer Garner, walked down the red carpet followed by the rest of the cast, which includes Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Kyle Chandler, Alan Arkin and Taylor Schilling.

Just as the Argo premiere after-party began in earnest a few blocks away in Terroni, another movie that created a lot of buzz, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, was having its own premiere. It centres on an unsettled naval veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) who is manipulated by a cult leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Later at midnight, Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths received its world premiere, which was attended by the director and his cast, including Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko and Sam Rockwell.