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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

'The Omen' remake is nothing new

All remakes are needless, but this update of The Omen is especially so.

The Omen - 6.6.06
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Not only was there nothing wrong with the 1976 horror classic, in which the Antichrist wreaks havoc on Earth as an innocent-looking five-year-old boy, but the original stands as one of the most frightening movies. Ever.

It's so ingrained in our pop culture, all you have to do is say the name Damien and everyone instantly knows you're talking about a demonic child.

So why mess with it?

Thirty years later, the makers of The Omen barely have. They're exceedingly faithful to the original - too much, actually - including having Omen screenwriter David Seltzer return to tweak his own script.

It's not a shot-for-shot remake like Gus Van Sant's pointless Psycho from 1998, but it's close. The structure, characters, setting, events, giant chunks of dialogue - all the same. One can only assume the intention was to appease the purists, but in doing so, director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines) has breathed no new life into the material.

Tiny changes here and there inevitably modernize the film. It takes place in the modern day, so the characters have cellphones.

When Julia Stiles - filling in for Lee Remick as Damien's unsuspecting mother - begins to think there's something wrong with her child, she immediately goes into therapy.

And Liev Schreiber - standing in for Gregory Peck as the father who surreptitiously brings the demon spawn into their lives - cries way more than Peck ever would have dreamed. Peck's Robert Thorn choked up a little when he learned his wife had died, but mostly he held it together; here, as troubles mount, Schreiber is wiping away tears half the time. It's the sensitive-man remake of The Omen.

But in the most feeble effort at modernizing the material, this Omen vaguely attempts to be politically relevant. A montage of photographs at the start suggests that the devil is everywhere, all the time - on Sept. 11, at Abu Ghraib, etc. - and we just don't know it. The visit to an ancient biblical city toward the end of the film features flashes of flags, both Israeli and Palestinian. Such references feel tossed in.

More importantly, though, it isn't even scary. It's so similar to the original that we already know what's coming. And because it adheres so closely, it only serves as a reminder of the superiority of Richard Donner's original.

Robert, an ambassador in Rome, agrees to take a newborn whose mother has died during childbirth because his own newborn is dead, unbeknownst to wife Kate. The ends justify the means, he tells himself, and besides, Kate has taken to the boy instantly.

Flash forward five years as Robert moves his family to London. Soon, the nanny hangs herself in front of dozens of shocked guests at Damien's birthday party (and even says the same thing beforehand as the nanny in the original). A creepy priest (Pete Postlethwaite) stalks Robert with warnings that the boy is the devil's son and talk of Armageddon. A photographer (David Thewlis) notices eerie shadows in a series of pictures that end up being prescient.

And from there you know the rest of the story: death, destruction, mayhem, all of which Damien delivers with a gleam in his eye and a smile on his face. (No offence to young Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick in his first film role, but the original Damien, Harvey Stephens, accomplished more with less to say.)

Having said all that, there are some solid performances here. Schreiber is as versatile and esteemed an actor as you could wish for, and he certainly carries himself with enough gravitas for the role. Stiles, meanwhile, always exudes a maturity beyond her years but looks too young here; the 13-year age difference between her and Schreiber feels more like a chasm.

Thank heaven for Mia Farrow - the Rosemary's Baby star returning to supernatural territory - as the satanic disciple sent to protect Damien by posing as a replacement nanny. This is a rare instance of the new Omen improving on the old one. Instead of oozing menace and doom from the second she appears on screen, as her predecessor did, Farrow is all fair-haired sweetness and light, with that girlish voice and angelic presence.

It's the scariest part of the whole movie.

Two stars out of four.
*By Christy Lemire, Associated Press


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Monday, June 05, 2006

ToonTownReviews - Special Report

'Break-Up' earns $38.1M to top box office

The Break-Up
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LOS ANGELES (Associated Press) -- Supported by real-life romantic splits and hookups, Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn's "The Break-Up" pulled an upset over the mutant world of the "X-Men."

"The Break-Up" debuted more strongly than expected with $38.1 million to take over as the No. 1 weekend movie from "X-Men: The Last Stand," which slipped to second place with $34.35 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Aniston's split from Brad Pitt last year and her reported romance that began with Vaughn while filming "The Break-Up" helped keep the movie in the public eye.

"They're always in the press," said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal, which released "The Break-Up." "Every time you turn around, somebody's talking about Jennifer, or Jennifer and Brad, or Jennifer and Vince. It's not why we made the movie, though."

"The Break-Up" pulled in about $10 million more than Rocco had expected.

After putting in a record four-day debut of $122.9 million over Memorial Day weekend, 20th Century Fox's third "X-Men" movie tumbled. The movie's domestic gross dropped a steep 67 percent from its Friday-Sunday haul the first weekend.

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Still, "X-Men" raised its total to a whopping $175.7 million in just 10 days, a mark it took "X2: X-Men United" 18 days to reach. Bruce Snyder, head of distribution for Fox, said the film should top out at $240 million to $250 million, beating the $157 million take for the first "X-Men" and the $215 million return for "X2."

The huge decline in the second weekend was typical given how many people saw the movie over the holiday weekend, Snyder said.

"I'm not shocked at that drop," Snyder said.

DreamWorks Animation's cartoon comedy "Over the Hedge" held up well, placing third with $20.6 million for a three-week total of $112.4 million.

Sony's "The Da Vinci Code" was No. 4 with $19.3 million, lifting its three-week domestic gross to $172.7 million. Worldwide, the Tom Hanks film adapted from Dan Brown's best-seller has grossed $581 million and should hit at least $750 million globally, said Rory Bruer, Sony head of distribution.

The DaVinci Code
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In its second weekend, the Al Gore documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" went into wider release and broke into the top 10 with $1.33 million, even though it was playing in just 77 theaters.

Released by Paramount Classics, the film averaged an impressive $17,292 a theater, compared to $12,410 in 3,070 cinemas for "The Break-Up."

Chronicling the former vice president's campaign to educate people about the perils of global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth" expands to more theaters over the next two weekends.

"It's breakups and global warming that I think really are interesting people now," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

Overall business rose slightly, with the top 12 movies taking in $128.9 million, up 1.6 percent from the same weekend last year.

After an 8 percent drop in movie attendance last year, Hollywood is positioned for a solid summer. Attendance is running about 1 percent ahead of last year's, with what looks like a solid crop of blockbusters still to come, including this Friday's animated comedy "Cars," from Disney and Pixar, and the Warner Bros. adventure "Superman Returns" on June 30.

CARS Superman Returns
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Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "The Break-Up," $38.1 million.

2. "X-Men: The Last Stand," $34.35 million.

3. "Over the Hedge," $20.6 million.

4. "The Da Vinci Code," $19.3 million.

5. "Mission: Impossible III," $4.67 million.

6. "Poseidon," $3.4 million.

7. "RV," $3.3 million.

8. "See No Evil," $2 million.

9. "An Inconvenient Truth," $1.33 million.

10. "Just My Luck," $825,000.


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A Prairie Home Companion

Director Robert Altman and writer Garrison Keillor collaborate with an all-star cast to create a comic backstage fable, A Prairie Home Companion. Filmed in Keillor's home state of Minnesota, the film is based on the beloved A Prairie Home Companion, one of the longest running programs on public radio in North America.

A Prairie Home Companion
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Backstage, onstage and around the aging theatre, the movie imagines a fateful final broadcast of a show that has been given the axe by a soulless Texas corporation. Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin star as the Johnson Sisters, Yolanda and Rhonda, a country duet act that has survived the county-fair circuit, and Lindsay Lohan plays Yolanda's daughter, Lola, who gets her big chance to sing on the show and then forgets the words. Kevin Kline is Guy Noir, a private eye down on his luck who moonlights as a backstage doorkeeper, and Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly are Dusty and Lefty, a singing cowboy act.

Add Garrison Keillor himself in the role of emcee for a playful story set on a rainy Saturday night, where fans file into the Fitzgerald Theatre to see A Prairie Home Companion, not knowing its been sold and that tonight's show will be the last.

Starring: Meryl Streep (The Hours, Adaptation)
Lily Tomlin (I Heart Huckabees, Tea with Mussolini)
Kevin Kline (The Pink Panther, A Fish Called Wanda)
Woody Harrelson (North Country, After the Sunset)
John C. Reilly (Chicago, Magnolia)
Lindsay Lohan (Mean Girls, Freaky Friday)
Tommy Lee Jones (The Missing, Space Cowboys)
Virginia Madsen (Firewall, Sideways)

A Prairie Home Companion A Prairie Home Companion
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Review: I didn’t know shit about this movie before seeing it, other than the fact that it was a Robert Altman film, and that it featured a ton of actors, as per his usual style. Well…my bad!! As it turns out, it’s basically a friggin’ radio show filmed as a stage play featuring a bunch of characters talking over one another (again, as per Altman’s usual style) and then singing country/bluegrass/gospel tunes along the way. There’s no plot per se, just a bunch of people yappin’ on about old times, as it turns out that this would be the last radio show for their particular program called “The Prairie Home Companion”. I can’t imagine this film appealing to anyone other than fans of Robert Altman, fans of this actual radio program or fans of the sort of music that I described above. It’s not a “bad movie” per se, but there’s no real story here, and none of the characters are developed to any real point that you care about them. It’s basically about the music and the chemistry between all of the characters backstage, and to a certain extent, that’s somewhat appealing, but again, to me…I don’t particularly care for Altman flicks, radio or that type of music, so most of the time, I was just peeking at my watch, the lights in the movie theater or Lindsay Lohan’s backside (a man’s gotta relax). The actors were all pretty good, so that made it a little easier, with Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin continuing the wonderful chemistry which they demonstrated at last year’s Oscars with seamless repartee between them.

Lohan was also solid and made a wise career move here, as part of an ensemble. She also underplayed her character, which was smart. Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly also seemed to be having a good time, so it was fun to watch them, and my favorite joke among theirs was (“I think my wife might have died.” “Why do you think that?” “Well, the sex is the same, but the dishes are stacking up.”) The man leading the show in the film (and in real life) is Garrison Keillor, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, and you can see how it all comes so easily to him. He was inspiring to watch. Kevin Kline played an over-the-top character named Guy Noir who had some funny lines, but whose pratfalls felt out of place in the movie, while Virginia Madsen walked around like an angel, and didn’t really bring all that much to the proceedings. Tommy Lee Jones was also wasted and didn’t chase one person during the entire picture or look inside any warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse. All in all, the film felt cozy and heartwarming, but again, it’s geared toward those who appreciate the elements that I mentioned above, which I simply don’t. Then again, I hated GOSFORD PARK with a passion, and some folks seemed to enjoy that flick, so it’s definitely a “person sensibility” issue on this one.

(c) 2006 Berge Garabedian, JoBlo's Movie Reviews

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