Weekend Movie Preview (12.3.10)

This week, we gear up for the stretch run of 2010 and kick off the smaller movies being most associated with the word “Oscar” these days. Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” takes the honors for the latter while the only mainstream release — likely due to fear of a Thanksgiving hangover — is the martial arts Western “The Warrior’s Way.” (Apologies to “The Nutcracker 3D,” which I’ve heard and seen absolutely nothing about/for and am assuming is total garbage).

With the slow week, I’ll also put in the phenomenal film I saw last weekend, “127 Hours,” starring James Franco from “Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle.

New This Week

The Warrior’s Way

Written and Directed by Sngmoo Lee
Starring: Dong-gun Jang, Geoffrey Rush, Kate Bosworth, Danny Huston

The Word: Every so often an Asian martial arts film gets a Hollywood release and makes some waves (notably “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Could this? The film stars Korean superstar Dong-gun Jang as an assassin on the run after disobeying orders and not killing the last remaining child of his enemies. He then finds himself in the Wild West with Hollywood co-stars Bosworth, Rush and Huston.

Rotten Tomatoes: N/A

My Thoughts: This looks to be more style than substance. The visuals and action could be cool, but the story and forced blend of genres seem unconvincing. I think there might be a bit too much Hollywood injected in, but damn if it ain’t cool-looking with “ninjas” (as Rush calls them in the trailer) jumping out of the ground in slow motion.

Recommendation: I say hold off and get ready for the more compelling December releases — unless you’re really into the martial arts movie scene.

Black Swan (limited)

Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Andres Heinz, Mark Heyman, John McLaughlin
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassell, Winona Ryder

The Word: Darren Aronofsky has a lot of respect and attention in Hollywood. The director of “Pi,” “Requiem for a Dream” and “The Wrestler” has traversed a number of genres, with his visual style being the standout feature each time. With “Black Swan” he tells the story of an overly ambitious ballet dancer (Portman) competing for her teacher’s affections as well as with a rival dancer (Kunis) during preparations for a production of “Swan Lake.”

Rotten Tomatoes: 82% (great)

My Thoughts: Aronofsky will make a not only great, but also heralded film one day, whether it’s “Black Swan” or not. He will next be directing Hugh Jackman in “The Wolverine,” so get excited about that. For now, however, “Black Swan” remains one of the bigger enigmas of the Oscar bait. From what I gather, however, Portman’s performance will no doubt be recognized.

Recommendation: If the trailer leaves you good goosebumps or bad goosebumps, respond accordingly. Aronofsky’s tastes aren’t usually for everyone (see “Requiem for a Dream”).

127 Hours (limited)

Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle , Aron Ralston (book)
Starring: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn

The Word: Danny Boyle, the Oscar-winning director of “Slumdog Millionaire,” is one of the most versatile and visually skilled directors out there. He takes his talents to a much smaller scale in this film based on the true story of  Aron Ralston, whose arm was trapped under a boulder in a crevice for guess-how-many hours in the Moab Desert.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93% (excellent)

My Thoughts: Visually brilliant and life-affirming with a deeply natural performance by James Franco. Read my review.

Recommendation: If you can stomach a man cutting his own arm off, then this is totally worth it.

Box Office Predictions

The biggest box-office hangover occurs after Thanksgiving. Even films doing well previously fall by at least 45 percent from the Thanksgiving weekend total, but there should still be some stirring and a bit of movement in the top five.

Most notably, Tangled will pass Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 and quite easily. The two finished basically tied for first last week and “Tangled” has all the momentum going into its second week with huge approval ratings and great word of mouth. “Potter” fans have by and large seen the new film at this point, so expect $20 million tops to $25 million for “Tangled.”

Beyond the top two this week, however, is where it gets ugly. The difference between third place and eight place last weekend was about $5.5 million. Of all the contenders, “Megamind” is the oldest and facing competition from “Tangled.” That’s why I expect it to slip and Burlesque to slide into third with $6 million. Megamind will fall just short.

In the battle for last, I’m giving no love to the new guy and picking Unstoppable to retain its position with somewhere in the $5 million range. It’s playing in far more theaters than the other movies that would compete with it, so it maintains the upper hand. Martial arts films tend to have very little luck, so “The Warrior’s Way” ought to make $4 or 5 million tops.

  1. Tangled
  2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1
  3. Burlesque
  4. Megamind
  5. Unstoppable


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