Friday, February 4, 2011

Movie Openings: Week of February 4th, 2011

You've seen the countless ads and trailers on TV. You've seen the previews in theaters, on the internet and pretty much everywhere imaginable. Yup, the James Cameron hype machine is working overtime yet again. The first Cameron movie, post-Avatar, is upon us and it's going to be another 3-D extravaganza. Actually, Cameron did not sit in the director's chair this time (he executive produced), that honor went instead to unknown Australian director, Alister Grierson (Kokoda). Besides this heavily promoted release, this first week of February offers no surprises, with your usual line-up of run-of-the-mill movies that eschews creativity over formula. It's Superbowl weekend and if you're not a football fan, it's probably time to catch up with any movies that you might have missed over the holidays. I suspect the theaters would be kinda slow this weekend.

Last weekend, the creepy Anthony Hopkins took over the box-office when "The Rite" nudged "No Strings Attached" out of the top spot ($14.7M vs. $13.4M). Jason Statham's "The Mechanic" did better than expected, cashing in $11.4M (Statham's best opening box-office take) for third place. Rounding up the top 5 are "The Green Hornet" ($11.1M) and "The King's Speech" ($11M). The latter seem to have gotten a good bump because of its Oscar nominations, adding 877 new screens and a jump of almost 41% in revenue from last week., bringing its total gross to an impressive $72M. Staying strong at number 6 is the Western, "True Grit," which has now grossed $148M, the best ever for a Coen brothers' movie.

Now, let's get on with this week's movie releases:

If you are expecting "Sanctum" to come up to the quality of Avatar, you'll be sorely disappointed. This film may have James Cameron's name attached to it but the only connection is only in the 3-D technology that was used. "Sanctum" is essentially an Australian production and the movie was inspired by co-writer Andrew Wright's near-death experience during a cave diving expedition. If you don't already know, "Sanctum" is a survival-adventure film where a group of cave divers find themselves trapped underground and must venture deeper into the cave to escape. Reviews have not been kind, describing "Sanctum" as an Australian B-movie with three-dimensional caves and two-dimensional characters. It is currently rated at 32% on Rotten Tomatoes. Unless, you are into 3-D movies, you should probably give "Sanctum" a miss and go rent The Descent instead, a much better cave adventure film. Here is the synopsis:

"The 3-D action-thriller Sanctum, from executive producer James Cameron, follows a team of underwater cave divers on a treacherous expedition to the largest, most beautiful and least accessible cave system on Earth. When a tropical storm forces them deep into the caverns, they must fight raging water, deadly terrain and creeping panic as they search for an unknown escape route to the sea. Master diver Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) has explored the South Pacific's Esa-ala Caves for months. But when his exit is cut off in a flash flood, Frank's team--including 17-year-old son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) and financier Carl Hurley (Ioan Gruffudd)--are forced to radically alter plans. With dwindling supplies, the crew must navigate an underwater labyrinth to make it out. Soon, they are confronted with the unavoidable question: Can they survive, or will they be trapped forever?"

I'm sure you've seen this one before. You meet a stranger who seems very nice and kind, someone who could be your new best friend.......until they suddenly turn psycho on you! With shades of Single White Female, "The Roommate" is a psychological thriller that probably belongs more on the Lifetime Movie channel than in your local cineplex. You know the drill, nice college roommate (Leighton Meester) stops taking her meds and goes nutty, becoming obsessed with her new roommate, played by Minka Kelly. Both actresses have had bit parts in several movies and here they are, finally getting their big shot at the limelight. It's just too bad this film is so formulaic and predictable, one that would soon be forgotten in a couple of weeks. This film hasn't been reviewed yet (maybe that's a good thing) and has received no rating on RT.

Natalie Portman's been a busy woman these days. After some unremarkable roles in films like The Other Boleyn Girl and Brothers, Portman rose to the occasion in Black Swan (for which she has received an Oscar nomination) and has since starred in a rom-com, "No Strings Attached" and now "The Other Woman." Based on the Ayelet Waldman novel, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, "The Other Woman" has Portman in the role of Emilia, a newlywed and second wife to lawyer Jack (Scott Cohen) who must deal with the inexplicable loss of a child, her status as "the other woman" in the eyes of Jack's ex-wife Carolyn (Lisa Kudrow) and connecting with her new stepson. Although the film has not been viewed positively by a majority of critics, Portman's performance received a thumbs-up from most of them. "The Other Woman" has received a less-than-stellar 39% rating on RT. Here is the synopsis:

"Natalie Portman (BLACK SWAN) lights up the screen in this frank, funny, and heart-wrenching adaptation of bestselling author Ayelet Waldman's novel about life, loss, and family, "LOVE AND OTHER IMPOSSIBLE PURSUITS." Emilia (Portman) is a Harvard law school graduate and a newlywed, having just married Jack (Scott Cohen, THE UNDERSTUDY), a high-powered New York lawyer, who was her boss - and married - when she began working at his law firm. Unfortunately, her life takes an unexpected turn when Jack and Emilia lose their newborn daughter. Emilia struggles through her grief to connect with her new stepson William (Charlie Tahan, I AM LEGEND), while also trying to overcome a long-standing rift in her relationship with her father caused by his own infidelity. But perhaps the most difficult obstacle of all for Emilia is trying to cope with the constant interferences of her husband's angry, jealous ex-wife, Carolyn (Lisa Kudrow, FRIENDS, ANALYZE THIS). Ultimately, Emilia's and Charlie's playful and sometimes tender exchanges help Emilia to open her heart. Can Emilia rediscover her own capacity for love in time to salvage her failing marriage, mend fences with her parents and build a family from the wreckage? Directed by Don Roos (THE OPPOSITE OF SEX) from his own screenplay, this tearful, terrific tale proves that even with a pursuit like love, nothing is impossible."

Written and directed by Aaron Katz (Quiet City, Dance Party, USA), "Cold Weather" premiered at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival to critical acclaim and was picked up by IFC Films for a theatrical run. "Cold Weather" has been described as a slacker version of Sherlock Holmes about an aimless twentysomething who discovers his latent passion for sleuthing when his ex-girlfriend goes missing. It is getting good reviews and is currently rated at a better than expected 75% on RT. Even if you don't get to it when it hits theaters, you should definitely check it out when it comes out on Blu-ray/DVD. Here is the synopsis:

"After abandoning a promising academic career in forensic science, aimless Doug (Cris Lankenau) returns to Portland to live with his more responsible big sister Gail (Trieste Kelly). He quickly lands a dead-end job in an ice factory, but his latent passion for detective work is stoked when his ex-girlfriend goes missing. Armed with a handful of arcane clues, Doug enlists Gail and co-worker Carlos (Raúl Castillo) in a ramshackle investigation that draws the slacker sleuths into Portland's not-quite-seedy underground. Building on the lyrical style and naturalistic performances of his two previous features, DANCE PARTY USA and QUIET CITY, Katz offers a refreshingly idiosyncratic spin on genre conventions. He eschews the twisty plots and violence of modern neo-noir in favor of sly, deadpan humor and closely-observed performances. COLD WEATHER is simultaneously a story of a brother and sister getting to know each other after years apart and a mystery in the great tradition of crime and detective fiction."

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