Thursday, December 30, 2010

Movie Openings: Week of December 31st/January 1st, 2010 - Happy New Year!

2010 is almost over and the annual year-end box office results are in. After a record-setting 2009 that produced an astounding domestic box-office take of $10.6 billion (courtesy of AvatarTransformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), 2010 fell just short of that number, coming in at a still-impressive $10.556 billion. 2010 marked only the second time in box-office history that revenues zoomed past the $10 billion mark, making it the second-highest grossing year ever. And the top 5 movies that contributed largely to that number are Toy Story 3 ($415 mil), Alice in Wonderland (334.2 mil), Iron Man 2 ($312.1 mil), The Twilight Saga: Eclipse ($300.5 mil) and Inception ($292.5 mil). These numbers are staggering considering that 2010 was also the second-lowest attended year of the decade (after 2008), down 5.36% from last year and had the single lowest summer attendance since 2000. This summer was a flop as big blockbusters churned out disappointing numbers, with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time ($90.8 mil), Knight and Day ($76.4 mil) and The A-Team ($77.2 mil) being the biggest culprits. Also a disappointment was the critically received Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which only earned a paltry $31.5 mil. Although 2010 had a much lower attendance record, it pushed past the $10 billion mark due to higher ticket prices and even higher prices for 3-D and IMAX showings, with the latter contributing a big chunk of the profits.

Now on to last week's box office battle between the Fockers and the Coens. Despite lackluster reviews for "Little Fockers," it beat out the much acclaimed Coen brothers Western "True Grit," pulling in $34 million ($48 million if you count its debut on Wednesday) over the weekend versus $25.6 million ($36.8 mil since Weds) for the latter. "Tron: Legacy" grabbed $20 million in box office business, an alarming 54% drop from the week before, bringing its total to just over $80 million. This is certainly not what Disney had hoped for with this uber-marketed sci-fi reboot.

As for this New Year's weekend, there are a couple of critically acclaimed but less recognizable movies but no big-name blockbusters to grace the screens. All the same, here they are:

"Blue Valentine" certainly had a rough few months leading up to its release this weekend. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim and has been riding a wave of approval from critics since. However, in October, the MPAA, much to everyone's surprise, slapped the film with an NC-17 rating due to its "emotionally intense sex scenes." An NC-17 rating is usually a kiss of death for any film as it only admits audiences above the age of 17, which means you have to be 18 and above to watch it. An R rating is more permissible, allowing anyone under-18 to be admitted as long as they are accompanied by someone over the age of 21. The NC-17 rating for "Blue Valentine" was highly controversial because almost everyone (except the MPAA, of course) agreed that there is nothing within the content of the film that should warrant such a harsh rating. The Weinstein Company, which acquired the rights to the film, lodged an appeal with the MPAA and just three weeks ago, was finally successful in getting the NC-17 rating for the film overturned to an R.

Directed and co-written by newcomer Derek Cianfrance, "Blue Valentine" stars Oscar nominees Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a married couple whose tortured relationship and failing marriage is bared for us to watch as the story intercuts between the past and the present. It is currently rated at an astounding 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, making it one of the best-reviewed movies this year. Here is the synopsis:

"Blue Valentine" is the story of love found and love lost told in past and present moments in time. Flooded with romantic memories of their courtship, Dean and Cindy use one night to try and save their failing marriage. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams star in this honest portrait of a relationship on the rocks. "

Directed by acclaimed Mexican film director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel and 21 Grams) and starring Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men), "Biutiful" is a film not short on passion or the idea of sacrifice. Unlike Iñárritu's previous films that cross-cuts many different storylines and sometimes chronologically displaces them, "Biutiful" is a relatively linear story of a father who has to balance his job as a thug in the grimy parts of Barcelona with the love and compassion he showers on his two young children. Critics are split as to "Biutiful"'s credibility, calling it a beautifully shot film and "leaden and contrived" at the same time. It is currently earning a 63% rating on RT. Here is the synopsis:

"Biutiful is a love story between a father and his children. This is the journey of Uxbal, a conflicted man who struggles to reconcile fatherhood, love, spirituality, crime, guilt and mortality amidst the dangerous underworld of modern Barcelona. His livelihood is earned out of bounds, his sacrifices for his children know no bounds. Like life itself, this is a circular tale that ends where it begins. As fate encircles him and thresholds are crossed, a dim, redemptive road brightens, illuminating the inheritances bestowed from father to child, and the paternal guiding hand that navigates life's corridors, whether bright, bad - or biutiful."

If you've watched director Mike Leigh's previous works, like Secrets and Lies or Vera Drake, you would come to appreciate his almost joyful depiction of "real life," as they unfold over extenuating circumstances. Both dramatic and comedic in tone, Leigh's films convey a sense of realism in how his actors interact, an improvisational style that he has wholly adopted from his early days writing and directing stage plays. In his new film, "Another Year," class consciousness again comes into play, but in a more subtle way, as happily married couple Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) play confidants to host of friends through the course of four seasons. "Another Year" has garnered a more than respectable 89% rating on RT. Here is the rather brief synopsis:

"Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Family and friendship. Love and warmth. Joy and sadness. Hope and despair. Companionship. Loneliness. A birth. A death. Time passes... A happily married, middle-aged couple is visited by a number of friends who use them as confidants."

Whatever one may think, "The Strange Case of Angelica" is a centenarian filmmaker's ode to the magic of youth and mysticism. Well, sort of. Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira is 102-years young and is still going strong in his field of work despite his advanced age. Oliveira's latest work is at once charming and business-like, a tale of impossible love set against the nature of supernatural curiosity. This film was adapted from an uncompleted screenplay that Mr. Oliveira had started writing half a century ago. That he finally finished it so many years later shows us how much a labor of love this film must be. It opens only in New York City this weekend and many of us may have to wait for it to come to Blu-ray/DVD for a chance to see it. Here is the synopsis:

"The new film from master filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira, The Strange Case of Angelica is a magical tale about a young photographer who falls madly in love with a woman he can never have, except in his dreams. Late one night, Isaac is summoned by a wealthy family to take the last photograph of a young bride, Angelica, who mysteriously passed away. Arriving at their estate, Isaac is struck by Angelica's beauty, but when he looks through his lens, something strange happens - the young woman appears to come to life. From that moment, Isaac will be haunted by Angelica day and night."

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