Friday, December 10, 2010

Movie Openings: Week of December 10th, 2010

As we move into the holiday season, the competition for your movie dollars is slowly heating up. Last week, "Tangled" up-ended the latest "Harry Potter" movie and knocked it off the number one spot in box-office take by raking in $21.6 million as opposed to Potter's $17 million. However, Potter has grossed a grand total of $245 million since its opening 3 weeks ago. So take that, Disney!

But what about last week's movie darling, "Black Swan"? Well, the psychological thriller only opened in limited release and will only go nationwide on December 22nd. However, for the limited theaters that it was shown in, its box-office gross per screen, as expected, went through the roof. Its wide release should put it in neck-to-neck competition with this week's impressive releases plus the mega hype machine of "Tron: Legacy" next week. Should be an interesting few weeks.

This week's releases pack quite a punch, with a lot of well known names and a returning franchise. First, we return to C.S. Lewis' beloved world of Narnia in the third installment in this fantasy movie franchise. Then we have Mark Wahlberg, finally releasing his very personal Bay State-based biopic project that has been in the works for several years. Oh, and Wahlberg may not even be the star attraction in this film. Anyone looking for an action flick this weekend should look no further than the Angelina Jolie-Johnny Depp spy thriller and finally, we have a the big screen adaptation of a Shakespearean play from acclaimed director Julie Taymor.

The one film that I am most interested in this week is "The Fighter," a biopic about the pride of Lowell, MA, boxer Micky Ward. Like most boxing movies, "The Fighter" is not about the bout itself but the journey of redemption and perseverance and about the relationship between two half-brothers and their large family. That it is a true story only makes it more intriguing. For Mark Wahlberg, who hails from Massachusetts, this film is a personal journey of sorts, having worked for many years to get this film made. Directed by David O. Russell ("Three Kings," "I Heart Huckabees"), "The Fighter" tells the story of "Irish" Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), as he struggles to get out of the shadow of his older half brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), who gained fame by going toe-to-toe with Sugar Ray Leonard but is now a pale shadow of himself as he fights drug addiction. As you can see by the pictures of Bale in the movie, he has again lost a lot of weight for the role (remember "The Machinist"?) and is so incredibly into the character. Some Oscar buzz is hovering above this film and that is a good sign for both Wahlberg and Bale. "The Fighter" has gained a respectable 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Next, we have the third installment in the "Chronicles of Narnia" series, subtitled "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." After a great debut with "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," and a so-so follow up in "Prince Caspian," the Narnia adventure continues but this third film seems to be following the franchise's downward trajectory as critics are split almost down the middle (57% on RT) as to its viability to entertain anyone other than children. Here is the synopsis:

"Return to the magic and wonder of C.S. Lewis' beloved world -- via the fantastic Narnian ship, the Dawn Treader. In this new installment of the blockbuster "The Chronicles of Narnia" motionpicture franchise, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, along with their cousin Eustace, their royal friend King Caspian and a warrior mouse named Reepicheep, find themselves swallowed into a painting and onto the Dawn Treader. Their mission -- on which rests the fate of Narnia itself -- takes the courageous voyagers to mysterious islands and a river that turns to gold, to fateful confrontations with magical creatures and sinister enemies and to a reunion with their friend and protector, the "Great Lion" Aslan."
Ah, "The Tourist." What to make of it? One can't deny that both Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp are genuine movie stars in their own right. But how do they measure when paired together in a movie? Well, let's see. Ms. Jolie is no stranger to spy action thrillers when her resume includes "Salt," "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and "Wanted" while Depp's previous roles have been, shall we say, more eclectic in nature. Whether or not sparks will fly when these two actors are on screen is yet to be seen but most critics are giving this film a thumbs-down, only garnering a paltry 26% rating on RT so far. Many cite the lack of chemistry and the hamstringing of Depp in a sedated role. Whatever the problem is, it should be at least worth a rental when it comes out on Blu-ray in a few months' time. Anyway, here is the synopsis:

"Johnny Depp stars as an American tourist whose playful dalliance with a stranger leads to a web of intrigue, romance and danger in The Tourist. During an impromptu trip to Europe to mend a broken heart, Frank (Depp) unexpectedly finds himself in a flirtatious encounter with Elise (Angelina Jolie), an extraordinary woman who deliberately crosses his path. Against the breathtaking backdrop of Paris and Venice, their whirlwind romance quickly evolves as they find themselves unwittingly thrust into a deadly game of cat and mouse."

Finally, Oscar-nominated director Julie Taymor ("Frida," "Across the Universe") brings us her adapted version of the Bard's supernatural thriller "The Tempest." Dame Helen Mirren stars as the sorceress Prospera who seeks revenge against her brother who exiled her, together with her daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones) to a deserted island. It stars David Strathairn, Alan Cumming, Chris Cooper and Djimon Hansou. Although only very few reviews (less than 15) are in at the moment for us to be able to gauge the overall reception to the film, the fate of "The Tempest" is not looking good, with only a 23% rating on RT so far. Here is the synopsis:

"In her big-screen adaptation of Shakespeare's mystical thriller, "The Tempest," Academy Award-nominated Julie Taymor (ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, FRIDA, TITUS) brings an original dynamic to the story by changing the gender of the sorcerer Prospero to the sorceress Prospera, portrayed by Oscar-winner Helen Mirren (THE QUEEN). Prospera's journey spirals through vengeance to forgiveness as she reigns over a magical island, cares for her young daughter, Miranda, and unleashes her powers against shipwrecked enemies in this exciting, masterly mix of romance, tragi-comedy, and the supernatural."

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