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.

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.

Taken 2 takes over the box office

Liam Neeson in Taken 2

In spite of being savaged by critics, action sequel Taken 2 stormed to the top of the box office in its opening weekend, grossing $50 million in North America and $53 million internationally. The original Taken debuted with less than half this sum in 2009.

Not only did the film help drive the season’s sluggish ticket sales up 43% over the same weekend last year, it also has cemented its lead Liam Neeson, who plays a retired CIA agent rescuing his kidnapped wife from his vengeful enemies in Istanbul, as a bankable action star.

Holdover Hotel Transylvania lost the crown but stayed strong over the weekend with $26 million in the US box office. The 3D animation, which features the voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez and Kevin James, was ranked 4th overseas with $13 million, bringing its global cume to $105.3 million.

The third spot was claimed by the teen musical comedy Pitch Perfect, which opened with $14.7 million in the US. Produced for only $17 million, the film stars Anna Kendrick as a new student who helps reviving an all-female cappella singing group in her college.

Sci-fi time travel thriller, Looper, lands in the 4th spot in the US with $12.2 million and drops to the 2nd spot in the foreign market with $10 million (without counting China). Directed by Rian Johnson, the film centers on an assassin (Joseph Gordon Levitt) who is tasked by the mob to execute his future self (Bruce Willis).

Languishing in the 5th spot was Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, which opens with a disappointing $11.5 million in the US. The 3D animation is an expanded remake of Burton’s 1984 short film with the same title. A homage to Shelley’s Frankenstein, the film tells the story of a kid who brings his dead dog back to life.

Is Liam Neeson converting to Islam? – interview

Husam Asi with Liam Neeson

Irish actor, Liam Neeson made headlines in June, when he talked about his fascination with the Islamic faith, sparking reports that he was converting to Islam. His publicist, however, was quick to deny the claims in an email he had sent me, saying that “his client is not, nor has he ever been converting to Islam.”

But speaking to Neeson at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in downtown New York, where he was promoting his latest action thriller, Taken 2, I got the impression that he was deeply affected by the sounds of Islamic call for prayer that he heard 5 times a day while shooting the movie in Istanbul.

“The first week, this call to prayer was like ‘will they ever stop?’” the star recalls, with wondrous eyes. “The second week, it’s just getting under my skin. By the third week, it was like I couldn’t live without it. It really became hypnotic and very, very moving for me in a very, very special way, very beautiful.”

So moving, that he bought CD’s of Islamic chants, which he puts on before bedtime to help him sleep.

Born in North Ireland, Neeson, whose father was a custodian at a catholic school, was brought up a very strict Catholic. In fact, he was the altar boy in the local church. But he became disenchanted by his Catholic faith, when it failed to soothe his soul and fill the spiritual void that was left by the tragic death of his wife Natasha Richardson in 2009, following a skiing accident in Canada. “I guess I’m somewhat lapsed as a practicing Catholic,” he reflects in his soft voice.

Frankly, I have not seen the Oscar-nominated actor in such high spirit since 2009; he had invariably looked stricken by profound grief. Whether it’s his new-found spiritually or the passing of time that healed the wounds of his agonizing loss, he wouldn’t say. “It’s personal,” he insists. He wouldn’t also elaborate on his own religious convictions other than speaking abstractly about spirituality.

“I am a big believer in acts of kindness, no matter how small that is. Thank you notes and giving to charity are very, very important,” he says.

Although he began performing in the mid-70’s as part of an Irish acting company, the 60-year-old gained international recognition  when Spielberg cast him to portray the German industrialist in Schindler’s List (1993), which earned him his first Academy Award nomination. He followed it with compelling performances in Michael Collins (1996)  and Kinsey (2004), but it was his action roles in films such as Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace” (1999) The A-Team (2010) and Taken (2008) that endowed him with the widest appeal to moviegoers.
In addition to the sequel Taken 2, which is due to be released next week, earlier this year, he starred in the thriller The Grey.  Currently, he is getting into shape -not spiritually-  to play a grieved writer in a Paul Haggis movie.

“I’ve got a couple of bed scenes with Olivia Wilde, so the push ups continue,” he quips.

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