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David Edelstein (#110 of 25)

Box Office Rap Riddick and the Passion of Brian De Palma

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Box Office Rap: Riddick and the Passion of Brian De Palma
Box Office Rap: Riddick and the Passion of Brian De Palma

On May 22, 1996, Mission: Impossible opened in 3,012 North American movie theaters. That weekend, it made $45.4 million and marked the highest opening weekend ever for a Tom Cruise starrer, a record that would stand until Mission: Impossible II opened in May 2000. Cruise has since used that franchise as a staple for his box-office résumé, allowing him collaborations with the likes of J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird, with Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol marking the highest-grossing film of Cruise’s career with a whopping $694 million in global receipts.

But back to 1996. Then, that $45.4 million also marked the highest opening-weekend gross for director Brian De Palma; in fact, with the exclusion of The Untouchables, no prior De Palma film had made as much in its entire run as Mission: Impossible managed in just its first three days. The film was considered a critical success as well, receiving “two thumbs up” from Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, though they, like several other critics, reserved most of their praise for Cruise’s performance and were skeptical of the film’s [sic] convoluted going’s on. Even in commercial success, De Palma’s fervid formal artistry has few boosters—an unfortunate trait that has inexplicably followed the great filmmaker’s entire career.

Sinful Cinema Catwoman

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Sinful Cinema: Catwoman
Sinful Cinema: Catwoman

If 2004’s Catwoman expressed anything, it wasn’t female empowerment, but the empowerment Halle Berry felt after winning her historic Oscar three years prior. Having already rocked her Bond-girl bikini in 2002’s Die Another Day, Berry kept on trucking with the sexualized-heroine angle, liberated by the kudos she netted for letting Billy Bob Thornton make her “feel good,” and no doubt thinking more about Catwoman’s iconography than the actual strength of the new film’s material. It’s hard to recall a recent Oscar victor with an odder post-win career than Berry. Critic David Edelstein has rather aptly called her out as being a “lovely non-actress,” and her taste in projects has been, quite frankly, bonkers. From Gothika to Cloud Atlas, there’s really no Berry film that one can admit to liking without a disclaimer. Catwoman, at least, is vividly exceptional, a good piece of trash with copious watchability, for both its car-wreck qualities and abundant camp delights. She may have showed up to collect the Razzie she ultimately won (again, galvanized by her shield of Academy approval), but it is a bit sad that Berry really isn’t in on the joke here. As Edelstein says, she’s an endearing and uncannily comely star, but she’s largely—and often, hilariously—to blame for this film’s undoing.