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3 items from 2007

'Ghost Rider' has fast start, collecting $51.5 mil

20 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

The boxoffice gods were smiling on Hollywood during the Presidents Day weekend as the combination of Sony Pictures' comic book adaptation Ghost Rider and Buena Vista Pictures' family flick Bridge to Terabithia helped lift the North American boxoffice to new heights for this time of year. The performance of the top two films, plus solid showings from Warner Bros. Pictures' romantic comedy Music and Lyrics, Lionsgate's Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls and Universal Pictures' Breach, pushed the holiday weekend take to a estimated record $193 million, a 23% gain compared with last year at this time.

The Nicolas Cage starrer Ghost, from Columbia Pictures and Crystal Sky Pictures, bowed to an incredible $51.5 million for the four-day frame. The PG-13 Marvel Studios production from writer-director Mark Steven Johnson is the highest-grossing opener for the Presidents Day weekend, surpassing Johnson's previous directorial effort, Daredevil, which opened to $45 million in 2003.

Terabithia, a Walt Disney Pictures/Walden Media production, surpassed all industry expectations, opening to an estimated $29 million. Based on the 1978 Newbery Award-winning children's book from Katherine Paterson, the film lured families in a big way, generating a strong $9,239 per-theater average.

In fourth place, Warners' Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore starrer Lyrics took in an estimated $16 million over the four days, the third opener to gross above expectations. The PG-13 film, which bowed Wednesday for Valentine's Day, has grossed an estimated $21.5 million in its first six days in release.

Lionsgate's Daddy's Little Girls, from multihyphenate Tyler Perry, also opened strong at $14.3 million for the four days, finishing in fifth place overall. The romantic comedy, which also opened on Valentine's Day, has grossed $20 million.

Universal didn't score as high with its CIA drama Breach, but with a stellar cast and strong reviews, the PG-13 film from director Billy Ray (Shattered Glass) drew in an audience of older moviegoers and took the sixth-place spot. The film grossed $12.3 million during the frame, generating a solid per-screen average of $8,790.

Paramount Pictures' release of DreamWorks' Norbit scored a solid estimated gross of $20.7 million over the four days for a third-place finish. »

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Ghost Rider

19 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

NEW YORK -- A comic book franchise is not born with this stillborn debut of Marvel's "Ghost Rider", starring Nicolas Cage as the fiery, motorcycle-riding skeleton who goes after bad guys. Despite the presence of the affable actor, who brings a clear love of the character and his trademark off-kilter brand of deadpan humor to the role, this effort is unlikely to reach the boxoffice heights of such stable mates as Spider-Man and the X-Men, settling instead for the level of director Mark Steven Johnson's other Marvel adaptation, "Daredevil".

After a brief prologue set in the Old West that reflects the first incarnation of the comic book, the film introduces us to the younger version of the lead character, Johnny Blaze. The young man's stunt cycle performer father is mortally ill from cancer, so when Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) shows up to suggest one of his deals, Johnny eagerly barters his soul in exchange for his father's return to health.

Unfortunately, he hadn't counted on the devil's duplicitous ways, and it isn't long before, like seemingly every other comic book hero, he's lost his dad, in this case to a fiery motorcycle accident. He soon sets off on his own, abandoning his beautiful girlfriend Roxanne in the process.

Years later, he's become an Evel Knievel-style celebrity, jumping over half a dozen hovering helicopters over the length of a football field. When Roxanne (Eva Mendes, dressed in form-fitting dresses and showing a lot of cleavage), now a television interviewer, reappears in his life, he thinks everything is great. That is, until Mephistopheles shows up to exact his price.

Thus, Johnny, transformed into the Ghost Rider, is forced to become a sort of bounty hunter for his satanic keeper, using his new power to battle evildoers. These include Mephistopheles' wayward son Blackheart (Wes Bentley) and his gang, who are apparently competing for wayward souls. Whenever he gets close enough, Ghost Rider employs his Stare of Penance, which apparently makes the bad guys feel really, really guilty.

At this point the story line becomes replaced by a numbing series of actions sequences in which the Ghost Rider performs his fiery gravity-defying stunts while trying to avoid the clutches of law enforcement. Every once in a while, he stops by an old cemetery, where the grizzled Caretaker (Sam Elliott) brings him to speed on various plot points.

Johnson and his special effects team do their best to provide the sort of cool visuals that will attract comic book and heavy metal fans, but the CGI flames never really impress, and the end results have the inevitable feel of a video game rather than the big screen.

Cage attempts to provide some originality to his characterization via such touches as Johnny's habit of swilling jelly beans from a martini glass, obsessive listening to the music of the Carpenters and fondness for watching monkey karate videos. But all of the actor's natural charisma is unable to compensate for the plodding narrative and thin characterizations.

Fonda, whose presence brings to mind such obvious references as "Easy Rider", effectively underplays as the Devil, and Donal Logue has some fun moments as Johnny's beleaguered employee.


A Columbia Pictures release in association with Crystal Sky Pictures and Relativity Media

A Marvel Studios/Michael De Luca production


Director-screenwriter: Mark Steven Johnson

Producers: Avi Arad, Steven Paul, Michael De Luca, Gary Foster

Executive producers: E. Bennett Walsh, Ari Arad, Stan Lee, Norm Golightly, David S. Goyer, Lynwood Spinks

Director of photography: Russell Boyd

Production designer: Kirk M. Petruccelli

Film editor: Richard Francis-Bruce

Costume designer: Lizzy Gardiner

Special visual effects and animation: Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc.

Music: Christopher Young

Cast: Johnny Blaze: Nicolas Cage

Roxanne: Eva Mendes

Blackheart: Wes Bentley

Caretaker: Sam Elliott

Mack: Donal Logue

Mephistopheles: Peter Fonda

Running time -- 110 minutes

MPAA rating PG-13


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Nunnari, White giving life to 'Ronin'

14 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

On the eve of today's Berlin premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel 300, Gianni Nunnari, one of the film's producers, began putting together the next Miller adaptation.

Sylvain White, hot off the hit Stomp the Yard, has come aboard to develop with an eye to direct Ronin, a big-screen, live-action adaptation of the Miller miniseries.

Nunnari and his Hollywood Gang shingle have a script by Peter Aperlo, which White will polish before shopping the project around town.

Miller, the comic book auteur, has developed a Hollywood following, with such titles as Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Sin City, which Robert Rodriguez adapted into a 2005 film. Miller created Ronin, published by DC Comics, after his acclaimed run on the Marvel Comics series Daredevil in the early '80s.

The story centers on a ronin who is reincarnated in a dystopic near-future New York populated by squatters, factions and mutants. The ronin must try to destroy a demon with a mystic sword, which also is to be found in New York. »

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3 items from 2007

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