The critically acclaimed actor returns to the silver screen in 'Dallas Buyer's Club'
By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - After transitioning from a Hollywood heartthrob to a critically acclaimed actor, then fronting a rock band with worldwide success, Jared Leto takes on one of his biggest challenges yet, playing a transgender HIV patient in his return to film.
"Dallas Buyers Club," out in U.S. theaters on Friday, is based on a real story. Leto, 41, plays Rayon, a HIV-positive transgender woman who helps homophobic drug addict Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey) smuggle much needed medication not approved in the United States to other AIDS patients.
Leto, who rose to fame as a complex teenager on 1990s TV series "My So-Called Life" and has had roles in 1999's "Fight Club," 2000's "Requiem for a Dream" and 2002's "Panic Room," recently focused on being the front man of the rock band 30 Seconds to Mars. Rayon is his first film role in five years.
Leto, spoke to Reuters about why he was drawn back to acting and what he has learned about Hollywood through his film and music.
Reuters: You've established a very successful career in music that seems to be keeping you occupied full time. What drew you back to film after five years away?
Jared Leto: I fell in love. I was seduced by the idea of bringing (Rayon) to life. I saw her as an incredibly gracious, kind, funny, fun, big-hearted dreamer, and I couldn't say no.
How did you interpret the relationship your character develops with Matthew McConaughey's Ron?
They need each other. Ron ultimately needs Rayon because she changes him and I think that Ron provides a certain father figure to Rayon. They both help each other in that fight, that battle to stay alive.
You went through an extreme physical transformation to convey the symptoms of a HIV-positive character. How challenging was that?
It's one of the most challenging roles I've ever taken on, physical and emotional. But when I read this, I thought it was a really steep climb and I wanted to walk down this path.
I started at the beginning as far as research goes, listening, meeting with transgender people, learning about the culture. Then (there were) a series of other challenges, from the voice, the dialect, the register, the body center, the movement, the emotional conditions and circumstances. And then there were the heels, the waxing of the body, the removal of the eyebrows, the losing of 30-40 pounds (13-18 kilos, so there was a lot there, but it was an incredible and fascinating experience.
How challenging was the weight loss?
It's absolutely brutal, as it should be. But the weight loss is really important because it changes the way you walk and talk, the way people treat you and the way you feel about yourself. So it becomes a really essential tool.
Your role as Rayon has not only garnered critical acclaim, it has generated awards buzz. How important is it to you to have awards recognition?
Oh, it's certainly not important to me to have it, because I never, ever get it. I'm never around. If it was important, I'd make films more often but it's absolutely wonderful that it's happening now. It's great, it's incredible to celebrate art and creativity in a film and performance, yes I think it's great. The people that thumb their noses at that, I don't understand the bitterness there.
The funny thing about art and success is that you fail all the time, you just succeed sometimes. You fail much more than you win, there's all kinds of failures all the time, and once in a while something happens and you celebrate that.
How does your music inform your acting?
I wasn't looking to make a film, I hadn't made a film in five or six years, and I hadn't read a script in years. That's a very wild thing to do after you've worked so hard in the business, to walk down a different path. But I think it was a really good thing for me to do. I think it made me a better actor. It gave me more to contribute because of the experiences I had with 30 Seconds to Mars and in turn with my life.
Were you worried you wouldn't be taken seriously when you transitioned from acting to fronting 30 Seconds to Mars?
I always knew that would be a challenge but I also knew that I wasn't going to let that stop me from pursuing my dreams. I think in the end, consistency, commitment, passion and results speak the loudest.
"Dallas Buyers Club" is out in theaters Nov. 1.
Enter to win a trip which includes hotel and airfare courtesy of 'Last Vegas'
To celebrate the release of the hilarious comedy "Last Vegas" starring Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline, our friends at "Last Vegas" and CBS wants to give our fans the chance to win this amazing prize -- a trip to Sin City!
You can now have a chance to win this fabulous trip and have the time of your life as these best friends did. As Billy (Michael Douglas) proposes to his girlfriend, his friends plan to take over Last Vegas in style to throw him a bachelor trip of a lifetime. Watch them relive their glory days when "Last Vegas" opens in theaters Nov. 1.
If you are selected as our lucky winner, you will win a pair of roundtrip tickets to Las Vegas, Nevada in addition to one room, two night stay at the Aria Resort & Casino. And in case you need some new luggage for this trip, that will be included too!
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We will be selecting a winner on Nov. 8 and be sure to check out "Last Vegas," out in theaters Nov. 1!
Legendary film maker talks latest project, what he hopes people will get out of his latest project & feminizing the planet
A handful of journalists were lucky enough to be invited to a roundtable with Oliver Stone to discuss his latest endeavor, "The Untold History of the United States" and also the re-release of "JFK" on Blu-ray. The three time Academy Award winner and legendary film maker, who has produced, directed and/or written hits such as "Platoon", "Born on the Fourth of July," "Wall Street" and "JFK", took time from his busy schedule to talk about a range of topics from his films, American credibility, female leaders and even Edward Snowden. We definitely left the room thinking about the world differently than when we came in.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment debut "The Untold History of the United States" Blu-ray 4-disc set on October 15th. The release includes the 10 part mini-series along with 2 new chapters that never aired on Showtime as well as a new documentary "A Conversation with History: Tariq Ali and Oliver Stone." It took Stone five years to narrate, direct and co-write documentary which we found interesting, reflective and hopeful.
Bing: More on Oliver Stone | More on 'The Untold History of the United States'
"JFK 50th Commemorative Ultimate Collection's Edition" on Blu-Ray will be available November 12th to commemorate fifty years since President John F. Kennedy's assassination. It will include a new documentary as well as Chapter 6 from "The Untold History of the United States."
I'm from Vietnam and learned a lot about the history of Vietnam from your movies. That was the first time I was really exposed to it, so thank you for making such great movies. My history teacher showed us "JFK" when I was in high school. Do you see a trend of schools re-teaching history (according) to how you see things?
Oliver Stone: I wouldn't go so far as to say you saw the history of Vietnam in my films. You saw the atmosphere of three stories that I did. My own, to some degree, Ron Kovic's and Le Ly Hayslip's but they're not histories.
I would suggest Chapter 7 of "Untold History (of the United States)" to get a sense of Vietnam, historically and that's not complete, it's just part of the story. That was a devastating, devastating step back for the United States. It was what I would call a reversal of fortune. There was no end to that war. It was a huge mistake, as Martin Luther King pointed out very early.
Lyndon Johnson was committed to American credibility. It always comes back to American credibility. We're hearing that today with the Obama Administration and we always hear it in the newspapers. It's a false argument. When you go into it, I think it's the basis of so many mistakes, tragic mistakes. Your question is about what exactly?
I saw "JFK" when I was in high school in my Social Studies class. Is there a trend that…
By the way, on "JFK," please look at our Chapter 6 because it's "To the Brink." It shows you more context for that period and I think it's the supplement to the movie. We're not talking about the movie, but the movie and Chapter 6 breathe side by side. In our revival of the movie, in some theatres, two-hundred-and-something theatres, in November- the Blu-Ray DVD release, you'll see the enclosed Chapter 6, which I think is great. Warner Brothers has both films, so it's a beautiful marriage.
I don't think there's a new trend. I think some teachers will take the film and put it in their classroom and show it. High school teachers- it would be great. Eleventh grade- perfect. It'll be thick stuff, but it'd be to teach them an alternative on the atomic bomb, on Vietnam. Although Vietnam does get criticized in history books but the atomic bomb doesn't get much of a major review. The whole thing has to be (re-written).
This is political now. You're getting politics, you see? The books are controlled by the school boards. The school boards always have the conservative hard-liners. In Texas they've got the worst, as you know. I don't think they are teaching evolution quite honestly yet, are they?
You've got a whole problem, a political problem about education in this country. The best thing is to make stuff independently and have teachers bring it in the classroom and show it. They can't take the text and put it in the classroom without permission, I believe, but you can show a film.
You get things on Showtime and this DVD release, you hope that it gets around and gets talked about. This is evergreen, in a sense that it doesn't (get dated). Warner Brothers will hopefully be selling this for the next 10, 15, 20 years.
In the closing of "Untold", you talk about a woman that you met in the 1970's, and her telling you to feminize the planet, and you closed it with love. How did that come about?
I don't want to trivialize it but yes. I know a young woman now, who's worked on Move On. She's not this woman but her new documentary is about testosterone. She says that it's testosterone that's ruining this planet.
I'm curious to see it, but there is an argument to be made that testosterone has to be modulated. When men get this and women too- I include Hilary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Golda Meir. (Indira) Gandhi in India- the woman leader. They've been very, very hawkish.
Let's not separate that, but the concept of going head-to-head and fighting something out, has got to be re-examined. It doesn't work through time.
Negotiation, peacekeeping is the highest value of all. Those heroes like Henry Wallace and Martin King, John Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt- those are the peacekeepers. We need them. Carter tried. Clinton briefly tried. Obama I think tried but I think we need these people in our system. Our system defeats them, time and time again because money is made by creating conflict and strife.
Do you feel that you have more power because you're a filmmaker, versus someone like Snowden, who…?
No. Snowden has changed the world. He'll be in the history books.
But the U.S. came after him and he's no longer…
Yeah. Look at the U.S. power in the world. Isn't it amazing that he can't get asylum, except in three or four Latin countries? Europe, in the olden days, would have given him some asylum. France might have. Switzerland should have.
Look how scared they are of the U.S. Yet at the same time, he told them- we're spying on every one of them. It's sad. It's ironic that in 1945, you'd be coming from Russia to the U.S. In 2013, he's fleeing from the U.S. to Russia.
If somebody reads your book, sees your series, feels that things have to change, they want and desire to change things, what do you think they should do with that energy? What do you hope people do with what you teach them?
Learn. Educate. Participate. Join groups, protests. Write your Congressman. Do everything you can, within the limits of your energies. You should write about it. You can be an enlightened critic.
Veronica Roth's bestseller gets a movie makeover
By Bryan Reesman
Veronica Roth's young adult sci-fi tale "Divergent" is the first of trilogy and part of a multi-million selling book franchise that is now being turned into what could potentially become the next big Young Adult film franchise. Directed by Neil Burger ("Limitless"), the big budget production features Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jai Courtney, Zoe Kravitz, Kate Winslet and many other familiar names were on set in Chicago.
For those who don't know, "Divergent" takes place in a future, post-apocalyptic Chicago where society has been split into five factions -- Abnegation (The Selfless), Erudite (The Intelligent), Dauntless (The Brave), Amity (The Peaceful) and Candor (The Honest) -- that help maintain a societal balance. When teenagers reach 16 years of age, they are tested and then allowed to choose to stay in the faction of their family, or choose a different faction they feel suited for that will also result in severing ties with their loved ones. When Beatrice Prior leaves her Abnegation family for the Dauntless, she renames herself Tris and takes a dark, often violent journey during her warrior training. She begins to fall for one of her trainers, a mysterious male by the name of Four, and becomes aware of a growing conspiracy among certain factions that threatens peace. An even bigger problem is that her rare aptitude test results did not find her suited to one faction and thus she has been labeled "divergent," a fact she has been asked not to reveal lest her life become endangered.
It seems that the YA formula includes an awkward teenage girl learning who she is while residing in a world that seeks to pigeonhole her and break her down. Add the inevitable cute boy, various real world dangers and a quest for truth and freedom, and you've got yourself a book! Okay, I'm teasing a bit.
'Divergent' vs. 'The Hunger Games'
"I think one of the most easy parallels to make is "Hunger Games," observes Amy C. Newbold, who plays Molly. "The difference I think with Dauntless [in "Divergent"] is that all of the initiates have chosen this. In that way they feel that it’s a characteristic that they are close to, this idea of bravery, and it’s something that resonates with them. I feel like that’s a little different than your name being pulled out of something and being thrown into this arena where you have to kill. We aren’t asked to kill anyone, so it is brutal but it’s chosen. It’s more about the characteristic, the virtue of bravery than it is about the actual inflicting pain on others or pushing you to your breaking point."
An interesting aspect of Roth's writing style is how she gives just enough detail about character appearance and locations to give readers an idea of the picture she is painting, but then leaves them room to finish the canvas. Which made me all the more intrigued when I arrived in Chicago for a set visit this past May to check out the exteriors of the Abnegation houses, the interior of the Prior household, the "rooftop" where the Dauntless jump to and The Pit, i.e. the cavern where the Dauntless fraternize, plus viewing sketches of various sets.
Divergence from 'Divergent'?
Naturally fans of "Divergent" are wondering how a compelling 500-page book is being distilled into a compelling two-hour movie without losing its magic.
"There are some things in the book that logic-wise wouldn’t make sense in a theatrical way," notes Shailene Woodley, who plays Tris. "We had to switch the way we are presenting it because logically it just didn’t line up."
Zoe Kravitz, who plays Christina, remarks that her character's romance with Will, played by Ben-Lloyd Hughes, needed a little fleshing out onscreen. "It’s hard because even in the books there isn’t that much [flirtation]," she explains. "All of a sudden they’re a couple. So we’re trying to find ways in scenes to add little flirtatious moments and chemistry. But we have great chemistry, so it’s easy to do."
Theo James, who plays Four, reveals that they have kept Four's age unspecified. The idea is that his onscreen character is a few years older than his book counterpart. "I think for him to have the experience as a leader and as someone of high skill that as he is -- the jump that he joined two years ago and now he’s this legend -- it makes more sense that he’s been there a bit longer, only a few more years," he says. "But it means that he’s had more experience than these initiates who come in."
I intently watch the filming of a scene where Tris and Four chat at a party while he is in an inebriated state. The way in which he hints at his attraction to her in the book becomes more blatant onscreen when he overtly tells her she is beautiful. With less time to tell the tale, compromises have to made. "It has to be different," stresses Shailene. "There are some things about the book that I miss. I think their relationship in the book is slightly different. Obviously there’s only a certain amount of scenes that we can play in this movie, and so we had to pick the most important ones. But it’s good, don’t worry."
Christian Madsen plays Al, the gentle giant whom Tris befriends and boosts his confidence and self esteem. In moments of weakness and peer pressure, he betrays her. The actor felt that an important scene showing Al being nice to Tris before turning on her was necessary as it had not been included in the script. "I told Neil there should be something, one more thing between Al and Tris just to give him some compassion, so when he turns on her it’s a little bit more like the book," says Madsen. "So they rewrote the scene where I’m sitting talking with her, and it shows this nice side to him before he turns on her. It was awesome, so that’s what I was looking forward to. I just shot that, so it’s downhill from here."
Ben-Lloyd Hughes, who plays Will, reveals that while there is a Dauntless initiate death early in the book, that does not surface in the film. "What I love about that early on is it cuts the excitement of the whole thing and brings a dose of reality about how this is life-and-death and just got real," he says. "And I love that about the book. Although it is about young people and it's exciting, there's a real life-and-death element to it and high stakes. We don't have that at the beginning of the film, which I personally love. But they do have the stakes, which is the most important thing. They convey it in a different way, although they don't have someone literally dying."
Capturing the look
The twelve-structure Abnegation complex I spy sitting beneath the shadow of the Sears Tower fits that faction well. They are drab, cookie-cutter concrete buildings sporting three square or rectangular windows and a door. There seems to be nothing to distinguish them individually. The inside of the Prior house (on the soundstage) is very utilitarian and is devoid of furniture except what is needed. Everything serves a purpose, whether it is a hung tool bag to hold something, a cabinet to store something or a chair and table to offer someone a place to sit and eat.
On the flipside, the large cavern and nearby chasm where Dauntless members fraternize and let loose after training is grander albeit more jagged and uneven, and it actually somewhat resembles what I had in mind when I was reading the book. Although I did not envision small LEDs illuminating the hallways.
While I examined sketches of various locales from the story -- sleek stone and glass buildings from the Erudite faction, the stately, semi-circular Choosing Day ceremony room where teens choose their factions, and then in contrast, more run-down parts of Chicago -- I noticed that not everything is gloomy or worn down. An important visual distinction that director Neil Burger wants to make with "Divergent" is that it will not serve up the expected post-apocalyptic vision. Not everything has completely gone to hell.
"We didn’t want to do it like '1984' or 'Children of Men'," emphasizes Burger. "Tris wants to be part of the system, so if she’s buying into it, I want the audience to buy into it as well. They should want her to be part of it. If it’s so bleak to start with, then [you'll think] she's making a big mistake right from the get-go. I wanted those places, the whole society and Dauntless in particular, to be kind of luminous. That’s why we're doing the lighting -- the pit being made out of white marble instead of a gray or a black or a brown stone -- to make it luminous and buoyant in a way."
But don't worry, there is plenty of grit to be found in future Chicago and in the Dauntless training environment. "I was actually surprised happily by how raw everything was," remarks Zoe Kravitz, who plays Tris' good friend Christina, about the set. "We’ve been shooting in real industrial spaces like abandoned warehouses. It was nice seeing that they really left it raw and real. They didn’t make it some kind of Disneyland version of the book, which I think is really cool."
Woodley says she was drawn to "Divergent" partly because of the way that the relationship between Tris and Four evolves naturally and without clichéd melodrama or game playing. "I feel like it’s very real, very personal and realistic to how a lot of relationships are," she says. "Of course there’s drama, but it’s very different than the Bella/Edward relationship. They’re completely on the opposite sides of the spectrum."
"I would say similarly the one thing for the character Four that I love is when he’s on the [Ferris] wheel," says James, referencing the Navy Pier sequence. "She says, 'Are you afraid of heights?' And he’s like, 'Yeah, I’m afraid of heights.' But there’s a way to get around it, and then he talks about it. He’s at home in his masculinity so that he can be vulnerable."
In the way that Woodley and James find the characterizations fresh, Burger has relished the chance to offer a new spin on young adult and post-apocalyptic films. "I just thought that there was a way to do it in a much more cinematically and also to tell it in a more real way," declares the director. "What I really liked about it was it was really about human nature. What are you made of? Who are you loyal to? Who are you? I like that, and I really liked her [Tris'] journey, that she began as this person who didn’t quite know where she fit in. She has ideas of where she should be, but is that something of a whim? She's hoping that she’s somebody that she’s not, then she really fills those shoes and more. So I liked that journey. I felt like it was a true epic story, and I liked that those ideas were really tightly tied to the action."
One challenge was translating the intense, violent action from the book, which includes male and female fight sequences.
"We don’t hold back, it’s pretty brutal. Especially my fights, I’m so much bigger than them," says Newbold, whose bully character Molly beats on Tris' friend Christina during Dauntless training. She feels people will be surprised. "Especially with Zoe, not that she didn’t put up a good fight. She did, she's really feisty, and I loved that they allowed her to get a couple of hits in. I think my fights in particular will seem extra brutal because we’re not quite evenly matched."
That said, the trick has been to avoid being so intense as to warrant an R rating. "I think some of the violence is less about seeing a fist smash into a face or blood splatter," stresses Burger. "It’s much more about a harrowing situation that you step into the ring for the first time and have to fight somebody when you have no business being in that ring. There’s a sense of violence emotionally as well, with her [Tris'] parents being killed. Again, it’s less about how they die, and the fact that they do die is really disturbing, upsetting and intense."
One sequence I watch being filmed focuses on black-clad, teenage Dauntless jumping from trains onto a rooftop to show off their fearlessness as they get to school. In the book it seems almost silly, yet in real life it looks dangerous, and it is on set because of the truss attached to the back of the train car section being pulled at 10 mph. One of the stuntmen almost slips off trying to leap across the 8-foot gap, which could have resulted in a nasty injury. It will look even more intense onscreen when the green screen effects added in transport us from a parking lot set to a train track 70 feet above the street.
"Our stunt coordinators are badass!" proclaims Miles Teller, who plays Peter. "We have the same guys who did 'Warrior,' and [fight coordinator] JJ [Perry] has over 140 credits. I’d say in terms of the fight stuff, everybody will be happy with it. I don’t think we could’ve gotten any guys with any more experience. One guy has an eye patch, so he's badass."
That guy is veteran stunt coordinator Garrett Wilson, who is a former fighter. I did not have to time to get the story behind the eye patch, but it is clear he knows his stuff. Ben Lamb, who plays Edward, the Dauntless member who gets his eye stabbed out, admits that when he was introduced by Burger to Wilson via Video Skype that he at first thought it was a practical joke. "I’m going have to a talk with Garrett before we leave just asking how long it took for him to come up to speed with only having one eye," says Lamb.
"Movies have been around for an awful long time, and everyone's done everything when it comes to fighting," confesses Wilson. "However, we wanted to come up with a specific look and style that would make everyone go, 'That's cool and inventive.' Like when you saw martial arts for the first time in your life. Or muay thai. I remember the first time I ever say muay thai was in the Van Damme movie 'Kickboxer,' and I thought it was a really cool fighting style. We came up with a fighting style where people have their hands crossed. When I was a professional fighter, I used to fight with my right hand down and my left-hand up, so I was able to cover up easily and to throw a jab from underneath people's eyes. We're adapting that fighting style to this, and the other thing we drew from was George Foreman, who had this peek-a-boo fighting style."
"It’s a very aggressive stance and very forward leaning," remarks Lamb of the Dauntless fighting style. "It’s as pointy as possible. It's something you sort of look at and know it’s going to inflict pain, which is fun. We're learning pretty set fights, so each move is part of a sequence."
"The fighting was great," confirms Kravitz. "I think it was really important for all of us to look authentic and look dirty and not look choreographed. That was really important to Neil. And I fight Molly, who is twice my size. I’m very short, and that was good. I got my ass kicked, and that was really fun to do! You choreograph it to the point where you forget that it’s choreographed. It’s all muscle memory, and you just start fighting. It’s hardcore."
"Divergence" is out in theaters March 2014.
A dog and his boy set out for outrageous adventures through time travel
There's never been a time travel adventure like this before! Mr. Peabody, a dog and Sherman a mischievous boy use their time machine, the Wabac to go back in time to alter the past, present and future. Watch the adventure unfold as they accidentally rip a hole in the universe, wreaking havoc the most important events in history when "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" opens in theaters March 7, 2014.
Our friends at 20th Century Fox wanted to share this fun character poster with our fans! Check it out and share it with your friends.
Here's your chance to win an iPad Mini!
A movie the whole family can enjoy come this Thanksgiving! Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson lend their voices to "Free Birds" -- a hilarious, adventurous comedy about turkeys that are forced to put aside their differences and team up to travel back in time to get turkeys off the Thanksgiving menu for good. Will they succeed? Will they fail? Watch the adventure unfold when "Free Birds" opens in theaters Nov. 1.
In the meatime our friends at Relativity Media and "Free Birds" wants to give one lucky fan a chance to win their own iPad Mini and a childproof iPad Mini armour protective case along with some fun movie goodies.
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"Free Birds" opens in theaters Nov. 1.
Must-see masterpieces for the horror junkie in you
By Scott Mendelson
There is a strange dichotomy in regards to the horror genre and the fans that flock to the cinemas. Up until recently, many of the best – or scariest –American horror films that were lucky enough to receive a mainstream theatrical release ended up under-performing at the box office, while the latest horror remake rocked the cash registers.
Let’s remember five genuine American theatrical horror classics that won the war for art but lost the battle for commerce. (And, for the record, "Cabin in the Woods" is not on this list because it earned $66m worldwide.)
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Topping the list at No. 1 is "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" which does something astonishing: it makes us fear and hate Fred Kruger for perhaps the first time. But absolutely no one cared. Released on the same weekend in October 1994 as "Pulp Fiction" the well-reviewed picture opened with just $6.6 million, the lowest wide-release debut of the entire series.
It ended its brief theatrical run with a mere $18 million in the domestic till, making the "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise an oddity in that its best entry is its lowest-grossing.
Nineteen years later, "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" still works as a deconstruction of the slasher genre, an emotionally wrenching portrait of grief, and a genuinely terrifying piece of horror of its own right.
Coming in at No. 2 is "Event Horizon." You won’t find me calling this a great movie. It was infamously cut by about thirty minutes prior to release and the final cut doesn’t quite make it to the last reel without nearly self-destructing.
The horrifying imagery, meant to antagonize the boarders with their darkest fears and most guilt-ridden moments, creates a genuine sense of discomforting dread. It’s basically a slickly-made b-movie sci-fi horror picture, but it’s well acted, gorgeous to look at, and remarkably effective in its primary goal. It also lost tens-of-millions of dollars for Paramount.
The film cost $60 million to produce yet brought in just $26m in August of 1997. Today it’s somewhat astonishing that Paramount spent what was then top-dollar on an R-rated science-fiction horror film with no box office draws.
If backed into a corner, I’d probably "Frailty," which makes No. 3, as the scariest – and best – horror film of the last 15 years. It’s box office failure gives lie to the idea that general audiences really, truly, want to be scared to the bone in a horror film, versus the kind of (perfectly enjoyable) popcorn-flying horror found in most multiplexes.
This emotionally-wrenching and uncommonly disturbing chiller comes from director Bill Paxton, who stars as a normal single father of two young boys.
Everything is fine and dandy until he sees a vision of a religious nature and wakes up his children to inform them that God has chosen him to be a slayer of demons.
Told mostly from the point of view of the oldest son (a devastatingly-good Matt O’Leary), this modern-day fable brings about timely issues of the nature and limits of religious devotion, and how our standards for sanity have changed over the centuries. It’s also disturbing and scary as hell.
But as we all know, most moviegoers don’t want to go out to the movies on a Saturday night to be thoroughly disturbed and/or depressed. So in retrospect its $4.2 million opening weekend isn’t too much of a surprise.
The good news is that it was cheap enough ($11m) that its $18m gross put it on the path to eventual profitability through various DVD and Blu-Ray reissues. The bad news is that Bill Paxton directed just one more feature, "The Greatest Game Ever Played" in 2005. It’s a genuine American masterpiece and belongs on the shelf (or hard drive I suppose) of every horror junkie on the planet.
At No. 4 is “The Mist” directed by Frank Darabont, this may be the most out-and-out frightening Stephen King adaptation ever released into theaters. But Thanksgiving isn't exactly the time to release an insanely grim spine-tingler that explicitly condemns human paranoia and religious-fueled mania, so it didn't exactly light the box office world on fire. "The Mist" opened with $8 million over Thanksgiving weekend 2007, ending up with just $25m. Thanks to a surprisingly robust $31m overseas take, the $18m horror tale eventually turned a profit, and the multiple DVD/Blu-Ray releases helped too, including one that included the film as Darabont intended, in black-and-white. No matter in color or black-and-white, the film is genuinely terrifying, and it's a shame it hasn't developed more than a passing cult following.
“Saw VI” rounds out the list at No. 5. In the kind of irony Jigsaw himself would appreciate, the sixth "Saw" film inexplicably turned out to be the best entry in the long-running series, but it ended up as the lowest-grossing film in the seven-film franchise. The weekend of October 23 was when it all came to a head, with "Paranormal Activity" going semi-wide on 1,900 screens and topping the box office with $21m in its fifth weekend. Poor "Saw VI," despite being a genuine artistic comeback, earned just $14m for the weekend. The "Saw" films had infamously short legs, and "Saw VI" was no exception, ending with just $27 million, or less than the last four entries had earned on opening weekend. Lionsgate scrapped plans for a two-part series finale, instead opting for one last "Saw" film, shot in 3D, and featuring the return of Cary Elwes years after suing the producers of the first "Saw" for unpaid back-end profits.
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Did you know 8 generations have lived in "The Conjuring" farmhouse?
Based on the real life story of the Perron family, "The Conjuring" tells the story of world renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Famiga) who stopped at nothing to help a family that was terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.
Experience the paranormal thrills as "The Conjuring" arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on Oct. 22.
In the meantime, check out this exclusive interview with the real life Parron family as they describe their first paranormal encounter and an exclusive infographic detailing out some of the fun and spooky facts behind "The Conjuring."
Experience more on "The Conjuring" Facebook.