The Weekend Warrior: May 23 – 26


Greetings and welcome back to the Weekend Warrior, your weekly guide to the weekend’s new movies. Tune in every Tuesday for the latest look at the upcoming weekend, and then check back on Thursday night for final projections based on actual theatre counts.

Who knows what’s been going on the last few weeks with the tragic disappointments of Speed Racer and “Prince Caspian,” but now that it’s Memorial Day weekend once again, any doubts that the summer movie season is in full swing can be put to rest. Steven Spielberg is ready to take back the weekend that once belonged to him with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Paramount), his long-awaited reunion with George Lucas and Harrison Ford, for another adventure of the highly popular action hero whose movies have accumulated nearly $650 million domestically. There’s a really good chance that Paramount and Lucasfilm will try to set a new record in theater saturation even if it’s just one or two more theaters than last year’s Memorial Day record-holder Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, but it will depend on whether Paramount is willing to give up some of their Iron Man screens, keeping in mind that Memorial Day weekend is “catch-up time” for many non-regular moviegoers and the Marvel Studios film should be one of the top choices after Indy for those who haven’t seen it.

“Indiana Jones” is opening early on Thursday, much like the “Star Wars” prequels, which could cut into the amount it makes over the four-day weekend, possibly even enough to keep it from setting a new Memorial Day weekend, although it should come close and at least make enough for second place with many people who haven’t been to the movies in years going out this weekend to see Indy’s return. Expect a softer opening than “Star Wars: Episode III” on Thursday but a similar amount over the three-day for a five day total of roughly $170 million. (UPDATE: Well, Paramount hasn’t been able to get the record theater count they were hoping so we’re going to lower our four-day prediction slightly and indeed, Overture Films’ The Visitor should remain in the Top 10.)

On the other side of the movie spectrum is the latest Uwe Boll “masterpiece,” a political action-comedy called Postal (Freestyle) which at one point was going to get a wide release, but was hit by a last minute boycott by theater chains which means it’s only opening in four theaters (OUCH!). Going by Boll’s past success, it wouldn’t have made a million dollars this weekend either way and why this guy hasn’t given up by now is beyond me.

(Note: Tenth place might instead be taken up by Tom McCarthy’s The Visitor (Overture Films) or Helen Hunt’s Then She Found Me (THINKFilm) as long as their distributors expand the theater count for the holiday.)

This week’s “Chosen One” is Fatih Akin’s multi-perspective intercontinental drama The Edge of Heaven (Strand Releasing), which you can read more about here.

We also want to give Weekend Warrior readers a heads up that EZ1 Productions’ summer string of box office games is now open, and you can sign up and play them for FREE at EZ1 Productions. There are three games that you can play based on the box office of summer movies—and yes, you’ll be playing against the Warrior himself—but you’ll definitely want to check out the Movieline Game where you have to pick between two movies to beat the other for the weekend, and like last summer, Ye Olde Weekend Warrior will be setting the spreads between the movies.

Updated Predictions (all 4-day predictions) –

1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Paramount) – $128.6 million N/A (down $2.6 million)

2. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Disney) – $35.2 million -36% (down $2.3 million)

3. Iron Man (Marvel Studios/Paramount) – $20.6 million -35% (down 1.7 million)

4. What Happens in Vegas (20th Century Fox) – $9.5 million -32% (up .2 million)

5. Speed Racer (Warner Bros.) – $5.0 million -39% (same)

6. Baby Mama (Universal) – $3.1 million -27% (down .1 million)

7. Made of Honor (Sony) – $3.1 million -34% (same)

8. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Universal) – $2.2 million -22% (down .2 million)

9. Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo (New Line) – $1.0 million -49% (down .3 million)

10. The Visitor (Overture Films) – $850 thousand +27% (new addition!)

Last Memorial Day saw the release of the third movie in Disney’s blockbuster franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (Disney), opening early on Thursday night to make $14 million, but still setting a new Memorial Day weekend record with $139.8 million over the four days in 4,362 theaters, which until this weekend was a record theater count. Even so, it averaged over $33,000 per venue for the weekend, the second highest average for Memorial Day after X-Men: The Last Stand the previous year. William Friedkin’s freaky thriller Bug (Lionsgate) starring Ashley Judd opened weak with $4 million in just over 1,600 theaters, an average of $2,417, so it’ll be pretty amazing if Uwe Boll’s latest movie does much better than that. The top 10 grossed $244 million over the four-day weekend with over $100 million of that being “Pirates” and Shrek the Third, which opened the previous week. Even with “Narnia” and Iron Man bolstering it, “Indiana Jones” probably won’t be able to help the box office surpass last year’s gross.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Paramount)
Starring Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, Ray Winstone, Karen Allen, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent
Directed by Steven Spielberg (WAY TOO MANY MOVIES TO LIST!); Written by David Koepp (Spider-Man, War of the Worlds, Panic Room, Secret Window, Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Mission: Impossible), Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me If You Can, Rush Hour 2, Rush Hour 3, The Terminal)
Genre: Action, Adventure
Rated PG-13
Plot Summary: It’s 1957 with the Cold War in full swing and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and his sidekick Mac (Ray Winstone) have just barely escaped Soviet soldiers, when he’s fingered by the American government as a communist sympathizer. Begrudgingly teamed with the rebellious young Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), Jones sets out for the tombs of Peru in search of the legendary Crystal Skull of Akator with Soviet agents led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) on their trail to get the skull themselves to use in their quest for world domination.

Memorial Day weekend has always been the place where studios roll-out their big sequels or tentpole offerings (movies they hope will make enough money to finance the rest of their slate), but the ante has been consistently raised in the past two years with two 3-quels that each set a new record for the busy holiday movie-going weekend, both of them crossing the $100 million mark for the four-day weekend. Those records must have started to get director Steven Spielberg somewhat riled, because his own sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park held the Memorial Day weekend record for nearly a decade with $90 million, an opening weekend record that’s been knocked down left and right over the last few years as more movie theaters opened, allowing studios to saturate the country with prints to help set new records every year. This probably wasn’t the first thing on Spielberg’s mind when his partner George Lucas came to him with the idea of doing another “Indiana Jones” movie, the first in 19 years, after many delays to get the script right, it’s appropriate for it to grab Memorial Day weekend, having been the preferred weekend for Spielberg and Lucas projects in past years, including many of the early “Star Wars” and two of the three “Indiana Jones” movies.
Having been 19 years, some might wonder why it’s taken so long to roll-out another installment, especially since most of today’s coveted teen movie-going audience will probably have never even seen the last movie. Well, let’s get into that:

The original movie Raiders of the Lost Ark came out of a collaboration between two of the top blockbuster filmmakers of the ’70s, and it was very much the template for the current summer action movie when it opened in the summer of 1981, with Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones becoming a beloved film hero, one that not only inspired a group of teens to remake the movie on a shoestring budget, but one whose influence carried over to video games like “Tomb Raider” and movies like Steven Sommers’ The Mummy and Jerry Bruckheimer’s National Treasure. Like Spielberg’s later movie E.T. the Extraterrestrial, “Raiders” stayed in theaters amassing money for a long time, grossing nearly $200 million–a lot at that time–and then the following summer, it reopened and did even more business. The next two movies opened in more theaters and opened even bigger although neither movie was able to gross $200 million, even if the amounts they amassed, taking into account how much more tickets cost now than they did in the ’80s, is still impressive. The resulting franchise is memorable for may accomplishments beyond the box office, having been responsible for the creation of the coveted PG-13 rating for movies that weren’t appropriate for young kids but weren’t quite adult-oriented fare i.e. no nudity or sex but stronger language and violence, something that allowed a movie find a much bigger audience of teens who didn’t necessarily want to see movies with their parents.

Without fear of argument, Spielberg is one of the most successful directors in Hollywood with $3.5 BILLION in movies under his belt (that’s just domestically) including the 4th and 12th highest grossing films domestically, E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial ($435 million) and Jurassic Park ($357 million). In recent years, he’s alternated between summer blockbuster fare and serious awards-worthy films, his last foray into the former being his version of War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise, which fared better than their previous collaboration on the Philip K. Dick sci-fi flick Minority Report. For the fourth “Indiana Jones” movie, Spielberg not only reunites with George Lucas, but he also works with two regular collaborators, writer David Koepp, who wrote the “Jurassic Park” movies and War of the Worlds and Jeff Nathanson, who penned Catch Me If You Can and The Terminal, which covers much of Spielberg’s output from the past decade.

The big question over the last year since the movie was announced was whether Harrison Ford, now nearly 66 years old, was up to the task of performing those wild stunts that he made famous 20 years earlier as Indiana Jones, since one can’t imagine him exactly being a spring chicken or even much of an action hero compared to those who’ve come since his heyday. In recent years, Ford has been taking it easy with easier thrillers that have opened between $12 and 14 million, and his last big hit was 2000’s What Lies Beneath with Robert Zemeckis, which grossed $155 million. Before that, Ford has only had three other non-Indy, non-Star Wars movies grossing over $100 million including Air Force One ($172 million in 1997), Clear and Present Danger ($122 million in 1994) and The Fugitive, which grossed $184 million and was nominated for a bunch of Oscars. Ford himself has only been nominated for one Oscar, that being Witness in 1986, but surely, the amount of money he gets paid to be in most movies makes up for it. There’s a contingent who’ll still go see every movie that Ford stars in but those numbers have been waning in the past few years, especially as his fans got older and the quality of his movies decreased. Ford returning to the role of Indiana Jones is a similar event as Bruce Willis returning to the role of Detective John McClane in last year’s Live Free or Die Hard or Arnold Schwarzenegger revisiting his most famous character in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines five years ago.

Spielberg and Lucas are no dummies and they realize that young audiences i.e. those who weren’t born when the last Indiana Jones movie came out probably won’t have any interest in this character or movie, which is why they’ve brought on Shia LaBeouf as a new young character who presumably can add some of the smart-assed humor that Ford was so good at during the ’80s. LaBeouf entered this coming off two big DreamWorks movies produced by Spielberg, Disturbia and Michael Bay’s Transformers, both which were successful enough to raise LaBeouf’s stature as a movie star among young audiences beyond his early days as a Disney whipping boy.

Indy’s creators have surrounded that duo with a group of awards-worthy actors, firstly the Oscar-winner (and multiple nominee) Cate Blanchett playing one of the film’s primary antagonists, something that should help give the movie a little more credibility among older moviegoers, as well the likes of Ray Winstone from Sexy Beast and most recently Beowulf as Indy’s sidekick and Jim Broadbent as the dean at Marshall University and John Hurt. Most importantly, “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” marks the return of Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood for the first time since the original Raiders of the Lost Ark. That first movie is arguably still the best and many fans’ favorite movie in the series and the fact that they got Allen back to join Harrison Ford is fairly huge, since it shows that Spielberg and Lucas have made this movie as much for the original fans as for new audiences.

There’s a lot of things that should help “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” this weekend but the biggest one is that it’s being released over the Memorial Day weekend, consistently one of the top moviegoing weekends of the year, something that’s not only helped new movies but also previous releases. As mentioned above, Spielberg’s “The Lost World” upped the ante for the weekend when it grossed $90 million over the four days, but in the last few years, many movies have grossed $80 million and above with Spielberg’s record being beaten twice in the last two years. The huge numbers that are coming in over Memorial Day weekend prove that it’s one of the top times for people to go see movies regardless of how the summer has fared previously.

Despite any skepticism, this is a highly-anticipated movie, much like George Lucas’ first “Star Wars” prequel “Episode I The Phantom Menace,” which was released nearly sixteen years after “Return of the Jedi” to huge success, not only bringing in the original fans but also the younger kids and those who had grown up seeing the movies on television and video. This is the type of movie that those who haven’t been to the movies in many years will actively go out and seek and Memorial Day weekend is the weekend where those who don’t normally go out to movies are out in force to catch up on some of the movies they’ve missed in previous weeks.

One of the best comparisons is Lucas’ last “Star Wars” prequel, which grossed $50 million its opening Thursday and then another $108 million over its first three day weekend, but there are a couple major differences: 1.) Episode 3 wasn’t the first in the return of a series like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is; 2.) it didn’t open on a holiday weekend, which probably lessened its Sunday take and 3.) it opened in roughly 800 less theaters than “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” While “Indiana Jones” might not have quite the same level of geek factor and fanbase that “Star Wars” has created, it does have a reputation as a movie that helped start the summer blockbuster craze and the first movie in nearly two decades is the kind of event that can bring in many moviegoers, some of whom haven’t seen a movie in years or longer. “Indiana Jones” has just that kind of power of nostalgia, and the influx of returning patrons who have long given up on theater-going could help push “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” far past even the already successful Iron Man.

The biggest audience for this movie will probably be guys 25 and up, followed by women in the same age group and then guys in their teens and younger boys should also eat this up because it looks like a fun action-adventure, even if some of the finickier rebellious teens might see this as “their father’s action hero” and not have much interest. (Then again, there’s not much else they might want to see considering that some have already seen Iron Man repeatedly.)

To reinvigorate interest, the three individual movies have been released on DVD as individual movies for the first time along with a new collection, and USA Films recently held a marathon of all three movies, though seriously, when you have a franchise that’s been playing on television for 19 years, the number of people who’ve seen them has already been greatly expanded even from the number of people who saw the last installment in theaters. When you take into account 19 years of inflation, you have a chance at a serious blockbuster that can make $300 million or more without breaking a sweat.

The movie has been given one of the biggest marketing pushes for this summer’s movies with lots of commercial tie-in sponsors like Burger King, and as annoying as these things can be, they almost always raise awareness for a movie since it’s impossible to get away from them. (Not that it helped Warner Bros.’ Speed Racer, which had a similar presence but failed to excite consumers to go see the movie.)

It’s fairly obvious that Paramount and Lucasfilm are trying to set a new Memorial Day record with “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” and saturating it into the most possible theaters plays a large part in that, especially since they know that the “Indiana Jones” name brand is a big enough one that casual moviegoers that go out to the theaters on Memorial Day weekend, as they’re apt to do, will be drawn by the title. Because of this, one can expect a lot of sellouts, not only in advance, but all weekend. The fact that it’s opening one day earlier on Thursday could potentially cut into the weekend business, only to the point where it might not beat the holiday record set by Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End last year, but it certainly will put in a valiant effort. Essentially, older fans will rush out to see it on Thursday and Friday but fathers with young kids will probably wait until the weekend and see it with their boys, plus it should be a strong film for gathering families throughout the weekend.

Amazingly, Spielberg and Lucas have managed to keep a lot of the film’s plot under wraps until the last minute (as well as holding off on press screenings until this past Sunday) to keep everything from being spoiled before opening, although some of the early fan reviews have not been particularly positive, despite George Lucas himself trying to lower expectations. (Wish he did that before the last couple of “Star Wars” movies.) Dozens of reviews have popped up since the movie’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival (and concurrent press screenings) and the general consensus seems to be all over the place. Veteran print critics like Roger Ebert seem to love it while the online fan community is mixed at best. Still, an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes two days before opening is not bad at all, and it’ll have more of an influence than the earlier reviews. (Ye olde Weekend Warrior hasn’t had a chance to see the movie himself and probably won’t until well after opening weekend.)

Can this old-fashioned action movie appeal to today’s teens who are used to video games and heavy CG-enhanced action movies like last year’s Transformers and Iron Man? Can Lucas and Spielberg change enough with the times to meet the demands of young audiences or are they stuck in the fanboy mindset of their own youth? These are all questions that will be answered this weekend as Spielberg, Lucas and Ford return to the weekend they helped turn into a bonafide blockbuster bearer, and frankly, if The Lost World: Jurassic Park can make $90 million in 3,200 theaters over ten years ago, and “Star Wars Episode III” can make $158 million in a four-day non-holiday weekend, why can’t the first Indiana Jones in 19 years make $120 million or more in its four-day weekend even with a Thursday opening?

Why I Should See It: It’s Indiana Jones!!! Rising like a phoenix from the fire with a great supporting cast to offer a lot more bang for the buck as well as something for all different ages and genders.
Why Not: Early word wasn’t great, and going by the quality of Lucas’ “Star Wars” prequels, one has to wonder if Indy’s going to suffer the same fate with his return or whether negative reviews can have any effect on a sure-fire event movie like this one.
Projections: $42 to 45 million on its opening Thursday, another $129 to 133 million over the four-day holiday weekend, and $320 to 340 million total to make it the highest grossing film of the summer and possibly even the year.


Postal (Event Film/Freestyle Releasing)
Starring Zack Ward, Dave Foley, Chris Coppola, Jackie Tohn, Verne Troyer, Seymour Cassel, J. K. Simmons, Larry Thomas
Directed by Uwe Boll (House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, Bloodrayne, In the Name of the King); Written by Uwe Boll and Bryan C. Knight (Boll’s long-time AD and second unit director… yes, he has a protégé ready to carry on his legacy, you lucky world, you!)
Genre: Comedy
Rated R
Tagline: “Some comedies go too far… others start there.” (Yup, that pretty much sums this one up.)
Plot Summary: An unemployed loser (Zack Ward) teams with his fanatic cult leader uncle (Dave Foley) and his bosomy female militia to take on Osama bin Laden and his Taliban who have been holed up in the tiny Texan town of Paradise since the events of 9/11.

Dual Review with “War Inc.” (Coming Soon!)

(Originally, this movie was supposed to go wide but then after I wrote much of the below, there was a nationwide theater boycott against Boll’s latest so it’s only going to get a limited release into just FOUR theaters. It probably wouldn’t have made a million if it opened wide this weekend, but now, it probably won’t even make a million total.)

There’s a common studio practice known as “counter-programming” we’ve seen many times in the past year—movies targeting women who may not be interested in the high-profile films for the guys—but who knows what Uwe Boll was thinking by releasing his self-produced and financed political comedy against the mega-blockbuster that’s likely to be Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? I guess it’s kind of “counter-programming” for anyone who doesn’t like spending money on movies that might be any good or for those absolutely resisting the urge to see the Indy movie. Surely, there must be a few people out there, right? Anyone? Hello?

With that in mind, where do even begin with this new feature film from Uwe Boll, the director famous for the poor-quality of his movies, the poor showing they have at the box office and the rants he’s made against the honest critics who’ve taken those movies apart and trashed Boll as a filmmaker? (And let’s not forget that he’s attacked Michael Bay for being a “hack” which is like a $2.00 crockpot calling a $50,000 gold-plated tea kettle black.)

Most American moviegoers first heard of Dr. Boll when he adapted the video game House of the Dead into a movie in the fall of ’03, right at the start of the horror resurgence, and things pretty much went downhill from there as he continued to make movies based on video games, most of which sucked, and none of them making much more than $5 million despite continuously getting wide releases. His last movie was the long-delayed “In the Name of the King” with Jason Statham, which finally came out this past January and averaged $599 per site–PITIFUL–and yet it still fared better than his previous movie, the video game action flick BloodRayne, which was released by the fledgling Romar Releasing, and quickly killed off that distributor and what was left of Billy Zane’s career.

This time, Boll doesn’t have the name stars that he was able to trick into appearing in his previous movies, the best he could do being David Foley of “The Kids in the Hall” and “News Radio” playing a fanatic cult leader. Foley gets naked in one scene—not that this might be a draw even for fans of his shows or anyone really—but Foley isn’t the headliner as instead, the movie is instead fronted by little-known character actor Zack Ward, who has been working most of his life dating back to playing the bully Scott Farkas in A Christmas Story. And that’s about it for starpower, although the movie even has an appearance by Vern Troyer from the “Austin Powers” movies appearing as himself, and that was probably the biggest star (sorry, bad pun) that Boll could get to play himself in the movie.

Political humor is tough and even Paul Weitz (In Good Company) failed miserably when he tried to make a comedy about the state of the country with American Dreamz in 2007, and that’s PAUL FREAKIN’ WEITZ!!! Seriously, why would Uwe Boll or anyone else think that political humor from Uwe Boll would fare much better? Heck, the poster image for this movie is a picture of Osama bin Laden and George Bush skipping and holding hands and who on earth would buy a ticket for something like that? It probably wasn’t too big a surprise when theater owners figured out what the movie was about and boycotted it from many chains, leaving Boll to scramble for a few scattered theaters across the country.

Recently, Boll challenged the world by claiming that if a million petitioned him to stop making movies, he would oblige. Right now, that count is in the thousands and there’s a chance that by this time next year, he’ll have hit the magic number so he never makes another movie. But who are we kidding? Boll won’t go away unless he’s kidnapped by Al Qaeda and forced into making their propaganda films… and if that happens, then the terrorists surely have won. (Although potential Muslim terrorists might be just as offended by Boll wasting their time as American moviegoers have been, so who knows?)

Why I Should See It: Dr. Uwe Boll actually TRIES to make a funny movie by delving into the world of political humor.
Why Not: What part of “Uwe Boll” didn’t you comprehend from the above analysis? Did I stutter?
Projections: It will never see a million dollars ever… it wouldn’t have even made that much if it went wide as originally planned.



The Edge of Heaven (Strand Releasing)
Starring Baki Davrak, Nursel Kös, Hanna Schygulla, Tunçel Kurtiz, Nurgül Yesilçay, Patrycia Ziolkowsk
Written and directed by Fatih Akin (Head On)
Genre: Drama
Not Rated
Plot Summary: The lives of native Germans and Turkish immigrants living in Germany intermingle due to chance encounters when a young German professor of Turkish descent travels to Istanbul looking for a woman’s daughter who in turn has been exiled to Germany after being involved with a political revolt.

Fatih Akin’s 2003 film Head On was an amazing love story set amongst the Turkish community of Germany, and he’s followed a similar trajectory with his new movie, a far more complex and intricate tale that explores the relationships between a number of Germans and Turkish immigrants from various classes in an intriguing way. The film is split up into three chapters, the first one mainly involving a Turkish prostitute named Yeter (Nürsel Kose) who gets involved with an older Turkish man. When she dies suddenly–it’s given away by the chapter’s title “Yeter’s Death”–his son travels to Istanbul to try to find her daughter, who is involved with a revolutionary faction and has been exiled to Germany. There, she gets involved with a college co-ed named Lotte (Patrycia Ziolkowska) despite the disapproval of Lotte’s old-fashioned German mother, and… well, I can’t say much more beyond that, but there are many shocking turns and twists even if the subtitles for the various sections do give some things away. Essentially, the story deals with the relationship between these various characters–two mothers and their daughters and a father and his son–but it’s the way Akin assembles these three stories and ties them together, which makes this such a gripping drama, especially as we see two parents trying to connect with their children. There are a lot of layers and depth to the storytelling but you may have to hunt for some of them since they’re so well-hidden, but it’s another example of Akin’s clever underrated filmmaking style, which seems to consist of non-sequiturs and coincidences until you really start thinking about what he may be trying to say. The subtle parallels he draws between the two countries are particularly intriguing, as he creates an untraditional travelogue through the eyes of various characters who become immigrants in one country and tourists within another. The performances are great across the board, although one can certainly see the likes of Baki Davrak, Nurgül Yesilçcay and Nursel Köse showing up in Western films in the future. Like the recent Jellyfish, a Chosen One a few months back, here’s another great example of the type of uncompromising and untraditional filmmaking being done in other countries that really should find a bigger audience and honored with awards, rather than being buried in arthouses during the summer months only to be discovered years later. After debuting at last year’s Toronto Film Festival and winning four German Lola awards, Akin’s The Edge of Heaven will open at the Film Forum in New York on Wednesday.

Also in Limited Release:

A Jihad for Love (First Run Features) – Parvez Sharma’s debut documentary takes an intense look at forbidden homosexuality within the Muslim community, looking at various stories in twelve different Muslim countries. It opens at the IFC Center on Wednesday.

The Children of Huang Shi (Sony Classics) – Roger Spottiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies) helms this war-time drama starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as George Hogge, a British journalist recruited to help protect an orphanage of young Chinese survivors from the Japanese invasion of Nanjing. Co-starring Radha Mitchell, Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh, the film opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Mini-Review: A competent though somewhat formulaic wartime drama that tells a unique viewpoint to war by focusing on the young Chinese survivors of the Japanese invasion and how one Westerner went above and beyond to save them from the environment that would drag young boys into the war. George Hogg is cut from the same mold as Oskar Schindler and there are correlations to Schindler’s List even though the film deals with a lesser-known and less-discussed Holocaust. Spottiswoode has created a powerful drama filled with many heartwarming moments between Jonathan Rhys Meyers and the Chinese children, although Meyers might not have been the best or most convincing casting for Hogg. On more than one occasion, the film gets bogged down in exposition with dialogue that really isn’t strong enough to bolster all the talking, but Meyers and Mitchell do a suitable job with it, even though neither of them give a performance as strong as Chow Yun-Fat as Chen, the leader of the rebellion, who sadly is noticeably absent for a good portion of the film. While the film sometimes veers into overblown and overly dramatic territory, the amazing multi-cultural crew assembled by Spottiswoode helps deliver a quality film, from the gorgeous way the film is shot by Zhang Yimou’s cinematographer to the impressive musical score by David Hirschfelder that mixes Western orchestral music with traditional Asian instruments. In essence, what starts as a fairly standard wartime drama turns into something much more powerful and moving, and good luck trying to keep a dry eye when you hear the testimonials from George Hogg’s now grown-up kids during the end credits which drives home the point of how Hogg’s contributions saved so many young lives. Rating: 7/10

Interview with Director Roger Spottiswoode

War Inc. (First Look Features) – John Cusack co-wrote, produced and stars in this political war comedy as a freelance mercenary named Hauser sent to the Middle East to kill an oil minister under the disguise of being the producer of a corporate trade show highlighted by the marriage of the controversial pop star Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff), only to fall for a left wing reporter (Marisa Tomei). The biting satire about our current war, which also co-stars Sir Ben Kingsley and Joan Cusack, opens in New York and L.A. on Friday after its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival last month.

Dual Review with “Postal” (Coming Soon!)

Next week, the month of May comes to a close with the long-awaited return of Sarah Jessica Parker and Sex and the City (New Line), and if that’s not horrifying enough for anyone, there’s the long-delayed home invasion horror flick The Strangers (Universal) starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman.

Copyright 2008 Edward Douglas