The mix of films getting exposure for Oscar sake and films just trying to get exposure for money sake continues this weekend. All three new releases get just around 2,500 theaters. The widest release goes to the first action/thriller in what seems like ages in “Contraband” starring Mark Wahlberg, while music comedy “Joyful Noise” and Disney’s 3D run of “Beauty and the Beast” follow. Meryl Streep’s run for her first Oscar in more than 20 years kicks into high gear with an expansion for Maggie Thatcher biopic “The Iron Lady.”
Now in Theaters
Directed by Baltasar Kormákur
Written by Aaron Guzikowski, Arnaldur Indriðason and Óskar Jónasson (film “Rekjavik-Rotterdam”)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster
Summary: A former drug smuggler agrees to one last job against his will in order to help his brother-in-law: smuggling counterfeit bills from Panama. But the job puts his wife and kid in harm’s way
The Word: This drug-running revenge thriller is based on an Icelandic film that director Baltasar Kormákur co-produced, starred in and loved so much that he helped remake it for English-speaking audiences. A cast of famous faces familiar to the genre, predominantly Mark Wahlberg, were obviously drawn to this classic “one last job gone wrong” story, so that helps its cause for sure.
Rotten Tomatoes: 47% (mixed)
My Thoughts: Marky Mark makes for a great protagonist, so despite being a story we’ve seen hundreds of times, the talent suggests something that could pass for entertaining. Each of these stars has made a bad film, so they’re not expert script scouts, but it’s January and the bar is low.
Written and Directed by Todd Graff
Starring: Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Jordan
Summary: After inheriting a struggling church choir, Vi Rose Hill (Latifah) must play nice with the boisterous G.G. Sparrow (Parton). Meanwhile, Sparrow’s grandson (Jordan) shakes things up in the choir including getting the attention of Vi Rose’s daughter (Palmer)
The Word: Seems like everyone’s finding their voice these days. How are we ever going to live in a censored dystopian society? Anyway, you can thank “Glee” for Hollywood’s perceived increase in demand for music-filled movies such as “Joyful Noise.” That’s perfectly okay by writer/director Todd Graff, whose passion has always been making music films. He previously directed Vanessa Hudgens in “Bandslam” as well as the aptly titled ”Camp,” a 2003 film with a big gay and lesbian following.
Rotten Tomatoes: 40% (mixed)
My Thoughts: Expect at least a decent soundtrack from this movie, but it will take a lot more than Parton’s self-deprecating plastic surgery humor for this small-town comedy/drama to connect with an urban audience.
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Written by Linda Woolverton and 11 others
Starring: (voices) Paige O’Hara, Robbie Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach
Summary: Small-town beauty Belle wants to get swept off her feet, but gets more than she bargained for when a mishap with her father leads her to the castle of a prince cursed by an old witch to look like a beast.
The Word: The 3D re-release of “The Lion King” earned Disney an extra $90-plus million. Needless to say that opened up the rest of the Disney Classics catalog for a “limited engagement” 3D re-release. I don’t use the quotation marks lightly, as “Lion King” opened in mid September and is still playing right now (albeit in fewer than 10 theaters). Considering “Beauty” was the first animated film to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, it was a logical next step.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91% (excellent)
My Thoughts: Nothing screams cash grab like this 3D re-release campaign, but that’s because as someone who grew up with these films there’s no need to spend money on inflated ticket prices. It’s great for young parents though, as they can ensure their kids won’t be seeing something crappy.
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd
Written by Abi Morgan
Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant
Summary: A biopic about former British Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher, who had to contend with issues related to being a female prime minister as well as make some divisive decisions that marred her reputation.
The Word: Meryl Streep. One gets the sense that her place in this film has given it this big of a spotlight. The Academy and most people in general love immersive impersonations, not to mention Streep in general, so there’s long been talk of whether this would-be 17th Oscar nomination could earn her her first win since “Sophie’s Choice.” She’ll have to do it with the help of her “Mamma Mia!” director Lloyd. Screenwriter Morgan also co-wrote this season’s “Shame.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 57% (mixed)
My Thoughts: No question that Streep is the alpha and omega when it comes to this film. With that being the case, you have to hope it isn’t one of those “Streep stands out amongst a (negative word) script” like recent disappointment “J. Edgar.” The buzz has been exactly that for this film, even though I have pretty unshakable faith in the quality of British-made biopics.
Box Office Predictions