Thursday, January 13, 2011

Movie Openings: Week of January 14th, 2011 - The Green Edition

While last week was a major disappointment in terms of quality (and quantity of) movie releases, this week promises to offer better prospects for restless moviegoers looking for something to do this weekend. We have a 60's comic superhero remake, a third movie in a martial arts franchise, a Vince Vaughn comedy and a bunch of no name films that might or might not catch your attention.

But before we get to them, let's do a quick review of what went down at the box office last week. The tussle between "Little Fockers" and "True Grit" for box-office supremacy continued last week without much competition from some of the newer releases. After playing second fiddle to the Fockers for the past month or so, the Coen brothers' Western finally shot itself up to the top, albeit during one of the slowest January box-office takes in a decade. Overall box-office dropped 30% from the week before and "True Grit" claimed top spot with $15M, putting its total gross at an estimated $110M. This financial milestone is important for two reasons. "True Grit" just became the Coens' first movie to cross the $100M threshold and at the same time, moved it past Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to become the 5th highest grossing Western ever, behind Dances with WolvesCity SlickersBlazing Saddles and Wild Wild West. The best news is "True Grit" is projected to move into the number two spot on that list by the end of its run. "Little Fockers" slid into the second spot with $13.8M, followed by the dismal "Season of the Witch" at third with quite a decent $10.7M take. Rounding up the top 5 are "Tron: Legacy" ($9.8M) and "Black Swan" ($8.4M).

As always, read on and have a great time at the movies!

Highlighting this week's movie releases has to be the anticipated remake of the 60's TV series, The Green Hornet, that starred Van Williams as the Green Hornet/Britt Reid and the indomitable Bruce Lee as his sidekick Kato. The TV series lasted only for one single season (1966-1967) and most importantly, introduced American audiences to martial arts superstar Bruce Lee. While many of us may only know The Green Hornet through the TV series, it has also appeared in various media, originating from a comic book series, a 1930's radio serial program and two movie serials that appeared in 1940 and 1941. This new movie remake, directed by Michael Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindBe Kind Rewind), stars comedian Seth Rogen (Pineapple ExpressZack and Miri Make a Porno) as the green superhero and Taiwanese singer, musician and actor, Jay Chou in the iconic role of Kato. Chou first got his acting break starring in 2005's Initial D, the live action Chinese adaptation of the Japanese manga/anime of the same name. The role of Kato has bounced around between Jet Li (HeroFearless) and most recently, Stephen Chow (Shaolin SoccerKung Fu Hustle) but landed on Chou's lap after Chow dropped out. This new movie is billed as an action comedy and is scribed by Rogen and Evan Goldberg (the team that also co-wrote the script for Superbad). One more thing to note is that Oscar winner, Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) also stars in this movie as the villain. It is currently running at a less than impressive 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes as not too many critics are amused by the tagged-on 3-D effects and the bombastic story that is as deep as Rogen's acting ability. If you are looking for a half-assed superhero comedy, then this is the film for you. Spider-Man it is not. Here is the brief synopsis:

"Britt Reid (Seth Rogen), son and heir to Los Angeles' largest newspaper fortune, is a rich, spoiled playboy who has been happy to maintain a direction-less existence. When his father James Reid (Tom Wilkinson) mysteriously dies, Britt meets an impressive and resourceful company employee, Kato (Jay Chou). They realize that they have the resources to do something worthwhile with their lives and finally step out of James Reid's shadow. Kato builds the ultimate weapon, The Black Beauty, an indestructible car with every weapon and gadget imaginable and Britt decides that in order to be heroes, they will pose as villains. With the help of Britt's new secretary, Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), they learn that the chief criminal in the city is named Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz). He has united all the gangs under his power, and he quickly sees that the Green Hornet is a direct threat to the prosperous criminal underworld he controls."
Next up is the latest comedy from Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers), titled "The Dilemma," which also stars Kevin James (Grown Ups), Winona Ryder and Jennifer Connolly. Now here is my own dilemma: even though Ron Howard is listed as the director of this film, I still can't accept the fact that the Oscar-winning director of such film classics as A Beautiful Mind and Apollo 13 would be associated with this lackluster bromance comedy. It is trending at a paltry 27% rating on RT but "Little Fockers" was trashed by critics as well and see how well it did. I would never pay money to watch these comedies but to each their own, I guess. Here is the synopsis:

"Since college, confirmed bachelor Ronny and happily married Nick have been through thick and thin. Now partners in an auto design firm, the two pals are vying to land a dream project that would launch their company. With Ronny's girlfriend, Beth, and Nick's wife, Geneva, by their sides, they're unbeatable. But, Ronny's world is turned upside down when he inadvertently sees Geneva out with another man and makes it his mission to get answers. As the amateur investigation dissolves his world into comic mayhem, he learns that Nick has a few secrets of his own. Now, with the clock ticking and pressure mounting on the biggest presentation of their careers, Ronny must decide how and when he will reveal the truth to his best friend."

What can I say about the magnificent Tony Jaa other than he represents the new crop of movie star martial artists from Asia with the charisma and on-screen physical presence to match the most eye-popping stunts that he performs without the help of wires or CGI. The language barrier and Jaa's Thai heritage may not be as sought after in Hollywood films but I'm sure a director with some vision will give this man his big break. The original Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior was first released in 2003 and created a stir among martial arts film enthusiasts, watching Jaa perform some of the most unbelievable stunts since Jackie Chan's younger days. Jaa followed up the success of the first film with The Protector (Tom-Yum Goong) in 2005 and the sequel to Ong-Bak: The Thai WarriorOng Bak 2: The Beginning in 2008. While the stuntwork on those films border on the insane, the sometimes incomprehensible stories leave much to be desired. Jaa is now back for his third go around as he battles another Thai martial arts sensation, Dan Chupong (Born to FightDynamite Warrior) for supremacy. Don't expect a great story from this final film in the trilogy but get ready for some of the bone-crushing fights Jaa's films are known for. Expect him to wow us again (this time with or without an elephant in tow) with some amazing stunts. Here is the synopsis for the film:

"The legend of Ong Bak 3 begins after Tien (Tony Jaa) has lost his fighting skills and his beloved step-father at the Garuda's Wing cliff from the raid led by Jom Rachan (Saranyu Wonggrajang). Tien is brought back to life with the help from Pim (Primrata Dechudom) as well as Mhen (Petchai Wongkamlao) and the Kana Khone villagers. Deep into the meditation taught by Phra Bua (Nirutti Sirijanya), Tien finally is able to achieve 'Nathayut'. His talents are put to the test again when his rivals including the Golden-Armored King's Guard (Supakorn 'Tok' Kijusuwan), the mysterious killers in black, and Bhuti Sangkha (Dan Chupong) return for the final massive showdown."

One of the better releases this week stars two of Hollywood's best character actors, Paul Giamatti (John AdamsSideways) and Dustin Hoffman (Rain ManKramer vs. Kramer) in the drama/comedy "Barney's Version." This film also stars Rosamund Pike and Minnie Driver and it is based on a novel written by the late Canadian author, Mordechai Richler (Barney's Version was his final novel). Giamatti is again praised for his portrayal of Barney Panofsky, the film's neurotic Jewish protagonist. The movie spans over 30 years of Barney's life as he searches for love and happiness, all told through Barney's version of the truth, hence the title. "Barney's Version" currently ranks a good 77% on RT, with most critics praising the performances of the actors. Here is a brief synopsis:

"Based on Mordecai Richler's prize-winning comic novel, Barney's Version is the warm, wise, and witty story of Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti), a seemingly ordinary man who lives an extraordinary life. Barney’s candid confessional spans four decades and two continents, and includes three wives (Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver, and Rachelle Lefevre), one outrageous father (Dustin Hoffman), and a charmingly dissolute best friend (Scott Speedman). Barney's Version takes us through the many highs – and a few too many lows – of a long and colorful life with an unlikely hero at its center – the unforgettable Barney Panofsky."

Up next is another indie drama/comedy, "Every Day," a by-the-numbers family story that seems to be on automatic pilot and offers up no curve balls to attract an audience or keep their attention. It stars Liev Schreiber, Helen Hunt, Carla Gugino, Brian Dennehy and Eddie Izzard and is yet another story about a dysfunctional family that seems so pedestrian and normal on the surface. This film is a hit or miss so far, garnering a 57% rating on RT. Here is the synopsis:

"Helen Hunt, Liev Schreiber, Brian Dennehy, Eddie Izzard and Carla Gugino star in EVERY DAY, a story about a family's struggle to survive life's curve-balls that ultimately bring out the best and worst in us and make us closer. Ned is a television writer on a seedy drama whose life is turned upside down when his wife's estranged father moves in with their family. EVERY DAY is an honest look at an ordinary family making it through life's challenges together."

Finally, we have "Burning Palms." So far, very little is known about it except that it stars a few well-known actors like Dylan McDermott, Rosamund Pike, Nick Stahl, Shannen Doherty and Zoe Saldana. Maybe the following synopsis can shed a little light on the film:

"BURNING PALMS is a subversive tale that interlaces five stories where no taboo is left unexplored. Framed as a graphic novel come to life, the film unfolds in five popular neighborhoods of Los Angeles as each character careens toward a dark and often comic fate."

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