Friday, January 7, 2011

Movie Openings: Week of January 7th, 2011 - Slow, Slow, Slow

The first week very of 2011 is turning out to be a very slow week at the movies, with only a Nicolas Cage period thriller opening together with a couple of foreign language dramas (opening in limited theaters). Next week's list looks to be more promising, with the release of the first of a bunch of superhero/comic book-adapted films slated for this year, "The Green Hornet."

Speaking of superheroes, remember those Fockers? I tell ya, those little Fockers are quite resilient. They narrowly held onto the box office lead (again) on the last weekend of the year and came out just on top, pipping the Coens' "True Grit" by the narrowest of margins ($25.8M vs. $24.4M). I guess bad reviews will not stop people from watching something that they are familiar with. Or maybe people are just looking for some laughs to finish off the year. "Tron: Legacy" came in 3rd again with $18.8M ($131M overall) and rounding up the top 5 are "Yogi Bear" with $12.4M ($65.8M) and "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" with $10.3M ($86.9M). As you can see, both "Tron" and "Narnia" are underperforming despite the name recognition and big budgets of both franchises. To put it all into perspective, "Little Fockers" have amassed a domestic box-office gross of $103M so far, making light of the special effects-heavy films that simply cost more to make. And looking at this week's releases, the top 3 movies after this weekend is unlikely to change.

The only notable release this week is the medieval supernatural thriller "Season of the Witch," starring Nicolas Cage (National TreasureGhost Rider) and Ron Perlman (HellboyHellboy II: The Golden Army). Directed by Dominic Sena, who also worked with Cage in Gone in 60 Seconds, "Season of the Witch" has been lambasted by critics nationwide as "bizarre and pointless," "utterly forgettable" and "a time-waster." One of the biggest pet peeve of most of the critics is the script's use of contemporary language (ie. modern cuss words) even though the movie is supposed to take place in the 14th century. Even high caliber actors such as Cage and Perlman, who are both not strangers to medieval movies, cannot save Bragi Schut's horrible screenplay. If only Sena had an idea of the absurdity he had brewing while filming and wholly embraced its B-movie sensibilities and just have fun with it. "Season of the Witch" is trending at a measly 3% (and dropping) on the Rotten Tomatoes meter. Here is the synopsis, if you are still interested:

"Oscar winner Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman star in this supernatural action adventure about a heroic Crusader and his fellow soldier who must transport a woman accused of being a witch to a remote monastery. The arduous journey across perilous terrain tests their strength and courage as they discover the girl's secret and find themselves battling a terrifyingly powerful force that will determine the fate of the world."

Opening in limited theaters, "The Time That Remains" is an intimate semi-autobiographical portrait of a Palestinian family living as a minority in their own homeland between 1948 to the present day. In this film, director Elia Suleiman, an Arab born in the Israeli city of Nazareth and currently residing in Paris, slyly presents a half-century worth of conflicts and suffering as a series of mordant comic vignettes. No, he doesn't make light of the tragedy that many living in the occupied territories faces everyday but instead draws inspiration from his own experiences growing up and presents a contemplative yet light-hearted narrative. There is a definitely deep sense of absurdity to it all. "The Time That Remains" has gained a respectable 80% rating on RT.

Finally, opening only in New York, is Romania's official entry into this year's Oscar competition, "If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle." Nothing much is known about it except that it employs a cast of mostly amateur actors who bring a great sense of reality to the film. Here is the synopsis:

"Silviu has only two weeks left before his release from a hostile juvenile detention center. But when his mother, who abandoned him long ago, returns to take his younger brother away - a brother Silviu raised like a son, those two weeks become an eternity. While his outcries for help fall on deaf ears, he finds himself mercilessly taunted and harassed by the other inmates. And just as Silviu's frustration evolves into full-throttled aggression, he is introduced to a beautiful social worker that he can only dream of being close to. Faced with a slew of conflicting emotions and wild with desperation, Silviu is driven to a surprising act of defiance as he makes a last grasp for freedom."

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