Brent LangLOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "American Sniper" is nearing the $250 million mark after picking up $31.8 million to set a new Super Bowl weekend record.
The previous high-water mark for football's big weekend was "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour," which nabbed $31.2 million when it premiered in 2008.
If it continues on this torrid clip, Clint Eastwood's biopic of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle could challenge "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" as the highest-grossing 2014 release and will pass "The Matrix Reloaded" to become the second-biggest R-rated release in history. It has earned $248.9 million -- an unbelievable result for an adult drama about such hard-hitting topics as war and its psychological effects.
Brent LangLOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "American Sniper" hit the bullseye, earning an astonishing $90.2 million in its debut weekend.
It is now on pace to decimate records for the Martin Luther King holiday and for the month of January, pulling in roughly $105 million over the four-day period. It's also a new high-water mark for director Clint Eastwood, whose previous weekend record was the $29.5 million wide-release opening for 2008's "Gran Torino." At 84, he's still got it.
"The movie has become a cultural phenomenon," said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. head of domestic distribution. "It tore apart the record book and not by a little. By an enormous amount."
Layla A. Jones, philly.com
Philadelphia is one of the eight new cities added to the #SelmaforStudents initiative, which allows students in 7th, 8th and 9th grade to see the new film “Selma” for free with a student ID or report card.
Initially launched in New York City, #SelmaforStudents was spearheaded by a group of African-American business owners who created a fund to send 27,000 students to see the film gratis. It began on Jan. 8 and sold out of tickets in the first weekend.
Led by Lydia Mallett of DuPont, local business leaders hope to raise $20,000 so 2,000 students can view the film for free. Other local business leaders involved include Henri Moore, Charisse Lillie, Les Brun, Shelley Stewart and Harold Epps.
Maggie Lee, Variety.com
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Running out of kidnapped relatives for Liam Neeson's ex-CIA killing machine to rescue, scribes Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen turn him into a fugitive framed for murder in "Taken 3," that abandons chic European capitals for the character's own backyard. French director Olivier Megaton, who at least paced "Taken 2" with workmanlike efficiency, executes the pedestrian plot without a shred of tension or finesse. Opening in Hong Kong on New Year's Day, a week ahead of its U.S. bow, the Fox release will draw crowds simply because it's supposedly the last installment of the lucrative franchise, but they'll just be hostages to tedium.
In "Taken" (2008), helmed by Pierre Morel, Neeson's Los Angeles-based Bryan Mills went after Albanian slave traders who kidnapped his 17-year-old daughter in Paris. Made as a low-budget B-movie that sent up U.S. politics and values even as it emulated American genre films, it grossed $227 million worldwide. The sequel, made four years later, reversed the pattern by having the Albanians' vengeful relatives kidnap Mills and his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen). Despite the more elaborate action setpieces and heightened casualties, the premise remained just as basic and clear: The shocking way in which the hostages are taken, and the methodical manner in which the retired CIA agent tracked them, generated tremendous excitement.
Without someone to save, the concept of a race against time is seriously weakened. While family matters were kept short and sweet in the other two installments, "Taken 3" stretches out the kitchen-sink drama endlessly: Mills' daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), who was 17 when she was first kidnapped, is now a college student facing serious adult problems. Her dad, however, still believes that, after having hurled a few hand grenades and driven a stolen car through a shower of bullets, she'd still be content to play with a stuffed panda on her birthday.
Peter DebrugeLOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - One of the most disappointing realities about 2014 was that as box office shrank compared to last year, independent films were often hit the hardest. Despite stellar reviews, even festival darlings like "Whiplash," "Foxcatcher," "The Skeleton Twins" and "Dear White People" each grossed less than $10 million domestically. Here are the 17 most underrated movies of 2014 that deserve a second look in the opinion of Variety's film critics and reporters.
Jake Gyllenhaal's biggest, most buzzed-about performance of 2014 may have been in "Nightcrawler," but his best work could be found in "Prisoners" director Denis Villeneuve's existential thriller about a mild-mannerded Toronto history professor who discovers he has a doppelganger in the form of a bad-boy bit-part movie actor. Virtually a solo -- make that dual -- performance piece, with Gyllenhaal playing most of his scenes opposite himself (and, in one case, a giant tarantula), this freewheeling mash-up of Davids Cronenberg and Lynch was a deliciously weird head-trip for the ages. -Scott Foundas
2. "Obvious Child"
The year's funniest indie comedy riffs on a subject even serious dramas tend to avoid: abortion. No wonder it ran into controversy in some corners. And yet, by being candid about the fact that its immature young protagonist has no intention of bringing the unplanned result of a one-night stand into the world, Gillian Robespierre's refreshingly honest romantic comedy earned its way into our hearts. And so, in super-talented standup Jenny Slate, a star was born. -Peter Debruge
Brent LangLOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - President Barack Obama told CNN that North Korea's hack attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment is an act of "cyber vandalism," not an act of war.
Despite the tens of millions of dollars in damage to the studio's business operations and threats of violence, the president said he wished that Sony had not canceled the Christmas release of "The Interview."
"If we set a precedent in which a dictator in another country can disrupt through cyber, a company's distribution chain or its products, and as a consequence we start censoring ourselves, that's a problem," Obama said in an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley on Sunday's "State of the Union."
Maane KhatchatourianLOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - The actors who have played Batman on film generally fall in two camps: those who still regret their turn as the Caped Crusader and those who are forever proud. Michael Keaton seems to be among the latter group.
Unlike Christian Bale, who most recently portrayed the superhero in Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy, Keaton told the ShortList that he's not jealous that Ben Affleck will soon be donning the cape and cowl in "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice."
"No," he simply said when asked if he feels envious. "Do you know why? Because I'm Batman. I'm very secure in that."
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Jared Leto, Will Smith, Tom Hardy, Margot Robbie, Jai Courtney and Cara Delevingne will make up the all-star cast of Warner Bros.' supervillain tentpole "Suicide Squad," it was announced on Tuesday.
Based on the DC comicbook, the story centers on the team of supervillains who are given a chance at redemption by the government. The catch: Their mission will probably kill them all.
The actors names had long been rumored for the high-profile movie, which opens Aug. 5, 2016, but their deals and characters hadn't been finalized.