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7 items from 2007

Berg in the mix as 'Salt' shaker

27 December 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Peter Berg is in talks to hop into the director's chair for Edwin A. Salt, a spy thriller for Columbia.

Tom Cruise is attached to star in the project, which has seen a game of helmer musical chairs play out during the past few months. Terry George was in negotiations to direct but fell out, and Michael Mann flirted with the project.

Berg met with Cruise twice in the past couple of weeks to discuss the script and is intent on making Salt his next project. He wanted to go with Lone Survivor, set up at Universal, but that script needs additional work.

The studio hopes to make Salt in the summer, though strike and guild negotiations could factor into shooting dates.

Penned by Kurt Wimmer, the story centers on a CIA officer named Edwin A. Salt who is fingered as a Russian sleeper spy. He eludes capture by superiors who are convinced that he is out to assassinate the president and struggles to find the true traitor while attempting to reunite with his family. »

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Mann & Smith to build an "Empire"

11 October 2007 | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

- Columbia Prictures has acquired the rights to Empire- a Will Smith vehicle to be helmed by Michael Mann, who previously directed Smith to an Oscar nom in 2001's Ali. The film with be written by hot scribe John Logan. Plot details are sketchy but word has it that Smith will play a contemporary global media mogul. Smith's dance card has been full these days. His latest film, I Am Legend opens Dec. 14, with John Hancock (from Peter Berg, who recently helmed the Mann produced The Kingdom) to follow next summer. Empire will have to wait until Smith completes production on Seven Pounds- which reunites him with Pursuit of Happiness director Gabriele Muccino. Michael Mann has always been one of my favorite directors, and the prospect of him re-teaming with Will Smith is very exciting. Considering that Miami Vice tanked last summer- it's probably not a bad thing that »

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Boxoffice didn't 'Plan' for $22.7 million bow

1 October 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Disney's "The Game Plan" pulled off a surprise at the domestic boxoffice during the weekend as the PG-rated family film exceeded expectations and scored an estimated $22.7 million in its debut. It finished about $5 million ahead the second-place film, Universal's R-rated "The Kingdom", which bowed to about $17.7 million.

Heading into the weekend, prerelease tracking indicated that the two films were neck and neck, with most industry observers giving a slight edge to "Kingdom". But families and kids are the wild card in tracking because interest from that demographic is more difficult to gauge than teens and adults.

Another factor playing into the strong finish for "Game Plan" was the relative dearth of family-oriented pictures in the marketplace of late. The majority of wide-release films opening the past four to eight weeks have been rated R, with a smattering of PG-13 films thrown in.

"It always feels terrific when you over-deliver on industry expectations," said Chuck Viane, president of Walt Disney Pictures Distribution, which now has had four films debut in first place this year.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars in "Game Plan", which opened in 3,103 locations and averaged $7,307 per theater. Andy Fickman helmed the gridiron-set family comedy, which centers on a carefree NFL quarterback (Johnson) who discovers he has an 8-year-old daughter (Madison Pettis) from a previous relationship.

The opening was the second best for Johnson in a starring role, after Universal's "The Scorpion King", which grossed $36.1 million in its April 2002 debut.

Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner toplined "Kingdom", which opened in 2,793 venues. Peter Berg directed the action thriller, about a team of U.S. counterterrorism investigators who work with local authorities in Saudi Arabia to track down the perpetrators of an attack on Americans there.

"Considering how many R-rated films are in the market, we are very pleased with the opening," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said.

Although "Game Plan" exceeded expectations and "Kingdom" bowed in the area expected, the total for the weekend's top 12 films was $76.7 million, down 11% from a year ago, when Sony's "Open Season" shot into the top spot with $23.6 million. »

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Weekend boxoffice holds keys to the 'Kingdom'

28 September 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

There will be something on theater marquees for nearly everyone this weekend as three wide releases and several specialty films arrive at the boxoffice for the last frame in September. The new arrivals carry MPAA ratings ranging from PG to NC-17, which all but ensures a broad demographic appeal.

Universal's The Kingdom is the highest-profile release of the group and is opening with the second-widest theater count of the newcomers, with 2,792 locations on tap. The action thriller, starring Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner and Chris Cooper, is a timely feature about a team of U.S. counterterrorism investigators who work with a local police officer, played by Ashraf Barhom, in Saudi Arabia to find the perpetrators behind an attack on Americans in Riyadh.

Peter Berg directed the R-rated Kingdom, which was produced by Michael Mann and Scott Stuber. Berg is presently working on the Will Smith starrer Hancock for Columbia Pictures and helmed Universal's Friday Night Lights and The Rundown.

Reviews have been mixed on Kingdom, but its timeliness, star power and astute marketing campaign should help the film open in the high-teens to low-$20 million area, according to industry observers. The 18-49 demographic is the target audience, and Kingdom is expected to skew more male than female.

Disney's The Game Plan is on the boxoffice playing field with hopes of scoring big with family audiences as there hasn't really been a film aimed at that group since Daddy Day Camp seven weeks ago. »

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Garner sees 'Ghosts' for New Line

19 September 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Jennifer Garner is in negotiations to star opposite Matthew McConaughey in New Line's Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, a romantic comedy being directed by Mark Waters.

The story follows a bachelor (McConaughey) who goes to his younger brother's wedding, where he is visited by the ghosts of his past and future girlfriends who endeavor to connect him with his true love (Garner).

Jonathan Shestack and Brad Epstein are producing.

Cale Boyter and Sam Brown are overseeing for the studio.

Garner next stars opposite Jamie Foxx in Peter Berg's The Kingdom, which opens Sept. 28, and appears in Fox Searchlight's Juno.

Garner is repped by Endeavor, Management 360 and Sloane, Offer, Weber and Dern. »

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November is in like 'Lions' at UA

21 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

MGM will bow United Artists' first production, Lions for Lambs, nationwide on Nov. 9. Helmed by Robert Redford, the multilayered drama starring Meryl Streep, UA co-head Tom Cruise and Redford will bow opposite the Warner Bros. Pictures comedy Fred Claus.

Principal photography on the film began Jan. 29. Based on an original screenplay from Matthew Michael Carnahan, Lions is being produced by Carnahan, Redford, Tracy Falco and Andrew Hauptman.

"Robert Redford has a remarkable ability to tell moving stories and capture the essence of the human experience," United Artists CEO Paula Wagner said. "We are very proud to have him at the helm of our inaugural production."

Derek Luke, Michael Pena, Andrew Garfield and Peter Berg co-star in the film following three plot lines, all converging on the themes surrounding the U.S.' war on terrorism.

United Artists was relaunched in November as a partnership among Cruise, Wagner and MGM after Cruise/Wagner Prods. ended its deal at Paramount Pictures.

Lions is the first film to enter production for the studio. »

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Smokin' Aces

22 January 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Joe Carnahan likes to make macho Guns-and-Violence movies -- "Narc" and "Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane" -- but in his third feature as a writer-director, he finds himself at a crossroads: He either will find an original voice or be content to ape yesterday's trends in the G&V genre. If he pursues the avenue of "Smokin' Aces," he is, discouragingly, headed down the latter path. While the film bristles with cinematic verve, it also is as second-hand as an antique store. The elements that come together here are far too easily identified: Huge, bloody chunks of Quentin Tarantino, the slickster moves of "Ocean's Eleven" and "Ocean's Twelve," the double-barreled visual assault of early Guy Ritchie and the plot twists of "The Usual Suspects".

In these interlocking tales of cops, hit men and mobsters, Universal definitely has a playable film for males 25 and under. But looking past the grosses, which could potentially go as high as $40 million, Carnahan's career seems to be moving away from his early promise. His first two films played Sundance; this one is strictly Salt Lake City.

The whole thing comes down to one gag: In the tradition of Nevada poker tournaments, "Aces" brings a collection of characters to a casino hotel in Lake Tahoe. However, these are not card sharks but rather a hit parade of outrageous assassins working as teams or solo acts. Seems a mob boss (Joseph Ruskin) has taken out a $1 million contract on sleazy illusionist Buddy "Aces" Israel (Jeremy Piven). Aces is ensconced in a penthouse at the Nomad Casino while his manager negotiates a deal with the FBI deputy director (Andy Garcia) to turn state's evidence against the mob.

So Carnahan gives us a rogue's gallery of sociopaths in competition for that cool $1 million: neo-Nazi brothers (Chris Pine, Kevin Durand, Maury Serling), who display a fondness for chain saws; two feminist hit ladies (Alicia Keys and Taraji Henson), righteous sisters in the struggle against male dominance of action flicks; a master of disguises (Tommy Flanagan); a master of exquisitely painful deaths (Nestor Carbonell); and an out-of-his-element bail bondsman (Ben Affleck) and two pals (Peter Berg, Martin Henderson). Ace's only protection comes from a couple of stalwart FBI agents (Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta) and a distracted hotel security staff.

Like all good multicharacter operas of mayhem, everyone gets an aria to demonstrate his bloody abilities. While these episodes lack the wit and intelligence of Tarantino -- well, Carnahan begs for the comparison to be made -- they do not lack visceral impact. On the positive side, these showdowns feature mostly superior stunt work rather than special effects.

One question hovers over the carnage, though: Whom the hell are we supposed to root for? The closest the movie comes to sympathetic assassins are its hit ladies, yet the payoff to their subplot is the weakest of the bunch.

A hot soundtrack and percussive editing drive the picture, which cinematographer Mauro Fiore shoots in saturated colors. Mary Zophres is allowed to go crazy with her costumes for her ghetto-fabluous hit babes, neo-Nazi fast-change artists and the other hep hitmen.


Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures in association with

StudioCanal and Relativity Media presents a Working Title production


Screenwriter-director: Joe Carnahan

Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner

Executive producers: Robert Graf, Liza Chasin

Director of photography: Mauro Fiore

Production designer: Martin Whist

Music: Clint Mansell

Costume designer: Mary Zophres

Editor: Robert Frazen


Jack Dupree: Ben Affleck

Stanley Locke: Andy Garcia

Georgia Sykes: Alicia Keys

Donald Carruthers: Ray Liotta

Buddy "Aces" Israel: Jeremy Piven

Richard Messner: Ryan Reynolds

"Pistol" Pete Deeks: Peter Berg

Sharice Watters: Taraji Henson

Darwin Tremor: Chris PineRunning time -- 108 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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