In 2nd-Century Britain, two men - master and slave - venture beyond the edge of the known world on a dangerous and obsessive quest that will push them beyond the boundaries of loyalty and betrayal, friendship and hatred, deceit and heroism. Adapted from Rosemary Sutcliff's classic novel The Eagle of the Ninth.
In 140 AD, the Roman Empire extends all the way to Britain - though its grasp is incomplete, as the rebellious tribes of Caledonia (today's Scotland) hold sway in the far North. Marcus Aquila arrives in Britain, determined to restore the tarnished reputation of his father, Flavius Aquila. It was 20 years earlier that Rome's 5,000-strong Ninth Legion, under the command of Flavius and carrying their golden emblem, the Eagle of the Ninth, marched north into Caledonia. They never returned; Legion and Eagle simply vanished into the mists. Angered, the Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered the building of a wall to seal off the territory; Hadrianís Wall became the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire - the edge of the known world.
Driven to become a brilliant soldier and now given command of a small fort in the southwest, Marcus bravely leads his troops during a siege. Commended by Rome for his bravery, yet discharged from the army because of his severe wounds, Marcus convalesces, demoralized, in the villa of his Uncle Aquila, a retired army man. When Marcus impulsively gets a young Briton's life spared at a gladiatorial contest, Aquila buys the Briton, Esca, to be Marcus' slave. Marcus is dismissive of Esca, who harbors a seething hatred of all things Roman. Yet Esca vows to serve the man who has saved his life.
Hearing a rumor that the Eagle has been seen in a tribal temple in the far north, Marcus is galvanized into action, and sets off with Esca across Hadrian's Wall. But the highlands of Caledonia are a vast and savage wilderness, and Marcus must rely on his slave to navigate the region. When they encounter ex-Roman soldier Guern, Marcus realizes that the mystery of his father's disappearance may well be linked to the secret of his own slave's identity and loyalty - a secret all the more pressing when the two come face-to-face with the warriors of the fearsome Seal Prince.
The Adjustment Bureau led the way on this week's Blu-ray sales chart, but with just a fraction of last week's winning total. It sold 122,000 units and generated $2.87 million in consumer spending, which is very low for the number one film. However, its Blu-ray ratio was 35%, which is good for this type of film. (At its heart it is a romance, with a slice of science fiction thrown in.)
Several new DVD releases charted this week, and new releases even earned the top three spots on the chart. However, sales were very weak and they only placed that well due to the lack of substantial competition. The number one film on this week's DVD sales chart was Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Rodick Rules with just 255,000 units sold and $5.01 million in opening week consumer spending at retail. To put this into perspective, that's on par with the original film's second week on the home market.
It's another busy week for DVD / Blu-ray with four first-run releases coming out this week. Five if you include Cedar Rapids, which was had surprisingly brisk ticket sales in limited release. Cedar Rapids is also the only one of the big releases that I would consider for Pick of the Week honors. Despite the number of wide releases on this week's list, I'm going with an unorthodox choice for Pick of the Week, "Weird Al" Yankovic - Alpocalypse, but Louie: Season One on Blu-ray earns an honorable mention.
It was a good news / bad news situation this weekend as a number of films missed expectations. However, the overall box office was still enough for 2011 to secure its first win, topping last year's box office $145 million to $134 million. Granted, this is not exactly a fair comparison, as it was President's Day long weekend this year and it wasn't last year, but when you've had a 14-week losing streak, you will take any win that you can. Year-to-date, 2011 is still behind 2010's pace by nearly $400 million at $1.39 billion to $1.78 billion and there's little you can do to spin that into a positive.
On the one hand, we are only six weeks into the year, which means it is far too early to push the panic button. On the other hand, there's everything else. It was yet another disappointing weekend at the box office with the top two films barely earning more than last year's number one movie. In fact, even if you ignored last year's number one movie, this year was still weaker in terms of ticket sales. The total box office was $149 million, which was 71% higher than last weekend, but while that seems impressive, it was still 27% lower than last year. 2011 is already closing in on $400 million behind 2010 at $1.17 billion to $1.54 billion. Maybe this coming weekend we can catch a break and finally turn things around.
Justin Bieber's popularity may not be restricted to Twitter after all.
This weekend's box office race is too close to call on Sunday morning after Justin Bieber: Never Say Never posted an impressive $30.26m opening weekend, enough to put it within striking distance of Just Go With It for top spot.
The Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy is pegged at $31m by Sony Pictures, which makes it the favorite to win, but a 2% difference between the two films means that Bieber could still take the title if fans turn out in greater numbers than expected today.
2011 is over a month old and we've only had one film that you could call a mid-level hit, two if you want to be generous. Worse still, none of 2010's holdovers have been big either. $100 million films opening in January are very rare, but films earning $100 million during the month of January are not that unusual. In fact, most years the biggest hit of January is a film released in December. So with no new releases or holdover pulling their weight, 2011 is off to a terrible start. This could be the weekend that changes that. Not only is it Valentine's Day weekend, but we should have the first $100 million hit of the year opening on Friday, plus a couple of potential mid-level hits. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the month, I was expecting two potential massive openings, but that appears less likely now. It also makes keeping pace with last year nearly impossible.
January got off to about as bad a start as I feared, and already 2011 is behind 2010 by about $275 million. Even worse, last February was better than expected. Not only did Avatar add another $200 million to its coffers during the month, the new releases collectively topped expectations every week (even if some individual releases failed to do so). What does this mean going forward? It means 2011 will likely continue to lose ground on 2010. By the time March rolls around, the only thing box office watchers will be talking about is the slump.
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