The Weekend Warrior: November 5 – 7

Greetings and welcome back to the Weekend Warrior, your weekly guide to the weekend’s new movies. Tune in every Tuesday for the latest look at the upcoming weekend, and then check back on Thursday night for final projections based on actual theatre counts.

If you aren’t doing so already, you can follow The Weekend Warrior on Twitter where he talks about box office, movies, music, comic books and all sorts of random things.

Updated Predictions and Comparisons -

1. Megamind (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) – $47.4 million N/A (up 1.2 million)

2. Due Date (Warner Bros.) – $32.6 million N/A (up .5 million)

3. For Colored Girls (Lionsgate) – $23.3 million N/A (down .2 million)

4. Saw 3D (Lionsgate) – $8.5 million -65% (same)

5. Paranormal Activity 2 (Paramount) – $7.3 million -56% (up .3 million)

6. RED (Summit) – $6.5 million -39% (up .3 million)

7. Jackass 3D (Paramount) – $3.6 million -58% (down .4 million)

8. Hereafter (Warner Bros.) – $3.4 million -45% (down .1 million)

9. Secretariat (Walt Disney) – $2.8 million -44% (Same)

10. The Social Network (Sony) – $2.6 million -43% (down .4 million and one place)

Weekend Overview

It’s November, the holiday season has officially begun, and it’s time to forget all about the slow weekends, the October duds, and the cheap movies that made more money at the box office than they deserved and get into some of the early holiday blockbusters… and what a weekend this is going to be!

DreamWorks Animation are back with their third movie of the year, the PG superhero comedy Megamind, featuring Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt doing their second animated feature voice roles–anyone remember which movies they did first?–with Tina Fey, Jonah Hill and David Cross providing back-up. Both DreamWorks Animation and Pixar have done well with animated comedies dealing with the type of science fiction and genre fare moviegoing audiences love as seen by Brad Bird’s The Incredibles and previous DWA hits Monsters vs. Aliens and Kung Fu Panda, although Megamind may be hindered by a couple of factors including comedy competition for the 17 and up set from the weekend’s other major release (see below) Even so, an ultrawide release, the higher ticket prices for 3D and IMAX and the lack of strong family fare in theaters as the temperatures start to drop should help Megamind have a significant opening weekend somewhere between How to Train Your Dragon and Monsters vs. Aliens.

Robert Downey Jr. and The Hangover‘s Zach Galifianakis are unwitting road trip partners in Todd (also The Hangover) Phillips’ comedy Due Date (Warner Bros.), the R-rated follow-up to… You guessed it! The Hangover! (See what I did there?) It’s been a while since there’s been a strong character-driven comedy and the pairing of a bonafide box office star and a rising comic favorite with a strong comedy premise should make this the first choice for most 20 to 30-aged moviegoers this weekend regardless of their gender. While a “Hangover”-like mega-opening may be difficult in early November and with Megamind stealing some of its audience, we think this will also have a strong opening weekend.

Tyler Perry is back, only this time it’s with a movie that doesn’t have his name as part of the title, and that’s because For Colored Girls (Lionsgate) is based on someone else’s play, in fact a highly-lauded urban play from the ’70s. Perry has assembled another amazing black cast including the likes of Janet Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Whoopi Goldberg, Kerry Washington, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose and more in order to bring Ntozake Shange’s words to life. Although it’s getting a less wide release than the other two movies, expect fans of Perry’s work, fans of the original play and black women in general to be out in droves to see this, even if it doesn’t open as big as Perry’s movies featuring his cross-dressing alter-ego Madea. (Yes, we have no idea how why Madea wasn’t given one of the roles in the new movie; she would have been great in the Loretta Devine role, for instance.)

UPDATE: Tony Scott’s a href=”http://www.comingsoon.net/films.php?id=38491″>Unstoppable (20th Century Fox) will get sneak previews in select cities on Saturday night to help build word-of-mouth before it’s opening next week.

This week’s “Chosen One” is Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours (Fox Searchlight), starring James Franco, which you can read about below.

Last November kicked off oddly with what should have been a big family animated movie, two genre films and a wacky George Clooney political comedy, and though it was no surprise that Disney’s A Christmas Carol (Disney), directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jim Carrey, came out on top, its $30 million opening weekend was relatively disappointing even if it was on par with Zemeckis’ earlier animated hit The Polar Express. Clooney’s political comedy The Men Who Stare at Goats (Overture) opened in third place with $12.7 million from 2,443 theaters, while the creepy thriller The Fourth Kind (Rogue/Universal), starring Milla Jovovich, took fourth with $12.2 million in 2,529 theaters. By comparison, Richard Kelly’s thriller The Box (Warner Bros), starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, tanked with just $7.6 million in 2,635 theaters, less than the two wide releases in third and fourth place which were in fewer theaters. Last year’s Top 10 grossed $103 million, an amount we think will be bested by the three new openers on their own, continuing the current streak of the box office being up from last year.


Megamind (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount)
Starring (the voice of) Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, David Cross, J.K. Simmons, Justin Theroux
Directed by Tom McGrath (Madagascar, Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa); Written by Alan Schoolcraft, Brent Simons (debut)
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family
Rated PG
Tagline: “A superhero movie with a mind of its own”
Plot Summary: For his entire life, Metro City’s criminal mastermind Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell) has been trying to take down his arch-enemy Metro Man (Brad Pitt). When he finally succeeds, he suddenly realizes that having complete control over the city isn’t as much fun, so he takes on an alter-ego and he turns an unlikely geek named Hal (Jonah Hill) into the superhero Titan. Meanwhile, Megamind starts seeing Metro Man’s old girlfriend, reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey), without her knowing that he’s really the criminal who constantly would try to kidnap her to get at Metro Man.

Interview with Jonah Hill (Coming Soon!)

Mini-Review: (Coming Soon!)

Analysis:

Now that it’s November, studios are starting to roll-out their holiday tentpole flicks and one company that’s made the most of the month is DreamWorks Animation, who have released two of their movies in this weekend over the years with the “Madagascar” sequel in 2008 doing better than Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie a year earlier. In fact, the latter is still one of the animation house’s biggest flops since they took up 3D animation. Now Megamind is the brainchild of comedian Ben Stiller, who put the project together and brought on Tom McGrath, the director of the two “Madagascar” movies, and this one involves supervillains and superheroes, a popular subject matter for holiday fare in the last ten years thanks to the success of the “Spider-Man” and “Batman” franchises. The fact that this one is opening the same weekend as Pixar Animation’s The Incredibles, second-biggest opener after this year’s Toy Story 3, is going to make it hard not to make comparisons, even though it’s a different movie, one that’s more of a vehicle for comedian Will Ferrell.

Ferrell’s career has been up and down in recent years, but he still maintains a fairly credible career as a box office star, especially when he’s teamed with his long-time collaborator Adam McKay, which was the case with this most recent comedy, The Other Guys over the summer. Those who feel that Ferrell’s career is over might want to remember that his shenanigans would still go over well with kids and in fact, Ferrell’s first big hit was Elf, which was released in the exact same weekend in 2003. Those who’ve complained that Ferrell essentially does the same thing or plays the same character can’t really say that about this and even without having a history for doing animation work, one should expect that Ferrell’s presence in this movie will be more of a draw for those interested in the material than a detraction. As proof of this, Ferrell has been doing crazy amounts of promotion for the movie, appearing (in character!) at Comic-Con in San Diego over the summer and staging (and setting) a new Guinness world record for most “superheroes” gathered in one place, both things that have enhanced distributor Paramount’s normal marketing blitz for the movie.

Even so, Megamind‘s not-so-secret weapon will probably be Tina Fey, who has become hugely popular in her own right due to her Emmy-winning hit series “30 Rock” and that success has led to a string of hit movies including her first, Mean Girls, and the recent Date Night. Since Fey’s audience is normally in their 20s, 30s or 40s, they might not be as interested in seeing her doing what looks like a PG kids’ movie, although DreamWorks Animation’s propensity for star voicecasts has helped them find older audiences than other animated fare.

For example, there are also roles voiced by David Cross and Jonah Hill, who had a small role in the “Night at the Museum” sequel with Stiller and has the most experience as a voice actor, having been in DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon and Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who. He continues to build upon his breakout comedy hits Superbad and Knocked Up with Seth Rogen, having co-headlined the comedy Get Him to the Greek over the summer, as well as the indie hit Cyrus.

Early November has been a solid time to open a family film because there haven’t normally been a lot of them in the months before, and that’s certainly the case this year as the only PG animated movie in months was Zack Snyder’s Legend of the Guardians, which did disappointingly compared to other animated movies this year. One may wonder if having another animated movie featuring a super-villain so soon after Universal’s mega-successful Despicable Me might hurt Megamind, but this is a very different movie, more in the vein of Pixar Animation’s mega-successful (and Oscar-winning) The Incredibles, which means it should appeal to the teen and older genre fans as well as younger kids.

Megamind‘s biggest obstacle may be that it’s opening against the strong R-rated comedy Due Date from Todd Phillips, which teams two popular stars in Robert Downey Jr. and 2009 breakout star Zach Galifianakis from The Hangover. That will likely be a much bigger draw to older teen guys and women appealing up through moviegoers in their 30s and even 40s. Normally teen and older guys might be interested in Megamind due to the superhero aspect and the hip cast, but after Despicable Me, they might see this as being similar kids’ fare. Even so, there should be enough room for both movies in the marketplace, and some of the grown-ups who go see Due Date on Friday may then take their kids to see Megamind over the weekend.

Reviews and word-of-mouth should generally be good for this even from the usual Will Ferrell detractors, who should be pleasantly surprised at how DreamWorks Animation has improved the quality of their filmmaking this year, possibly hoping to keep up with Pixar Animation whose movies tend to receive rave reviews every year.

Even with the amount of movies opening in the next few weeks, Megamind should at least have two good weeks, even with a chance at being #1 two weeks in a row, but it will probably have its legs cut off once Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 opens in two weeks as that’s going to be the type of mega-blockbuster we haven’t seen since summer blockbusters Toy Story 3 and Inception. That’s likely to keep Megamind from becoming the third DreamWorks Animation movie of the year to hit $200 million, even if it bounces back slightly over Thanksgiving weekend.

Why I Should See It: Like The Incredibles, this is another great use of CG animation to make a superhero movie that exceeds many of the live action ones we’ve seen in recent years.
Why Not: Megamind is going to have a hard time avoiding comparisons to The Incredibles and Despicable Me and other Will Ferrell movies.
Projections: $43 to 47 million opening weekend and $165 million total.

COMPARISONS


Due Date (Warner Bros.)
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx, RZA, Juliet Lewis, Danny McBride
Directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover, Old School, Road Trip, Starsky & Hutch); Written by Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel, Todd Phillips
Genre: Comedy
Rated R
Tagline: “Leave Your Comfort Zone”
Plot Summary: Architect Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) plans to fly home to L.A. from a business trip in Atlanta to be there for his wife (Michelle Monaghan) delivering their first child but an encounter with an off-the-wall actor wannabe named Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) on the plane gets both of them thrown on a no-fly list, so Peter reluctantly agrees to allow Ethan to drive him a cross country so he can be there for his wife.

Mini-Review: Trying to create a road trip comedy on par with a classic like John Hughes’ “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” may be an unenviable task even for a filmmaker like Todd Phillips who has clearly hit a benchmark in his career with “The Hangover.”

The set-up couldn’t be much simpler as we meet Downey’s Peter Highman, a stressed-out architect finishing up an assignment in Atlanta and heading home to his expectant wife, played by Michelle Monaghan. As with “Planes, Trains,” one brief encounter turns into another and by the time the two of them have boarded the plane, Peter has had enough and he blows up at Ethan, getting both thrown off the plane and onto the government’s no-fly list. Having left his wallet on the plane, Peter is sunk until he runs into Ethan again and is offered a ride to L.A. by the wannabe actor who hopes to make it big in Hollywood.

While it might seem on the surface that Galifianakis is playing the exact same character as he did in “The Hangover,” his Ethan Tremblay may be even odder than Alan with an effeminate strut that makes one wonder about his sexuality. Phillips should count himself lucky that he never goes there, instead focusing on Ethan’s questionable acting talents and his ever-present mutt Sunny, who steals many a scene including a few that have to be seen to be believed.

Anything that can go wrong on this trip does, as Peter’s attempts to get money wired to him is blocked by Ethan’s good intentions, and along the way, they meet a number of odd characters who cause even more friction between the duo, including Phillips mainstay Juliette Lewis as a pot dealer and Danny McBride as a feisty Western Union employee.

But it’s not really necessary as Downey and Galifianakis could spend all 98 minutes riffing and it would be entertaining, Downey mostly playing the straight man but having a couple moments where he can really let loose on Ethan. When he finally decides to steal the rented car and escape, it’s hard to blame him after seeing all of what Ethan has put him through. Finally, Peter calls upon his real friend, played by Jamie Foxx, to help him only to begin suspecting his friend’s relationship with his wife may be more than platonic; Ethan doesn’t help matters, always urging Peter on to start doubting his wife’s fidelity.

Not all the jokes work, but when they do, it’s due to the perfect comic timing and chemistry that keeps you invested in this odd couple. While many of the best gags may be given away by the commercials, there is more than enough other things to explore in their relationship with a surprising amount of warmth and heart that makes it feel like a far more mature effort on Phillips’ part. Ultimately, “Due Date” may not be nearly as clever as “The Hangover” and its attempt to solve a “night before” mystery, but it is a fairly satisfying film on its own merits, a fun experience that’s more than just an endless stream of jokes. Rating: 7.5/10

Analysis:

In a time when comedy is king and R-rated humor in particular, filmmaker Todd Phillips has found himself within his element, having created one of the biggest blockbuster R-rated comedies with last year’s breakout hit The Hangover, a movie that helped make the career of Bradley Cooper and Phillips’ friend Zach Galifianakis, an off-the-wall comic who shot to enormous success after that movie and hosting “Saturday Night Live” earlier this year.

The two have reteamed for a movie that’s more of a straight-ahead road comedy in the vein of classics like National Lampoon’s Vacation and Plains, Trains and Automobiles, but what really makes this movie something people will want to see is the fact that Galifiankis is paired with Robert Downey Jr., who has gone from being a bright shiny up ‘n’comer, to being a complete and total f*ck-up, to having the comeback of the century that turned him into one of the biggest movie stars in the world. While a stint in jail for drug use looked like it would sideline Downey’s career in 2000, he came back with the horror flick Gothika, followed by a string of highly-acclaimed (but non-profiting) indie films like Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly, the high school comedy Charlie Bartlett and Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. (We won’t mention Downey’s money grab playing a baddie in The Shaggy Dog, ’cause it just makes us sad.)

Things turned around in 2008 when Downey took on the role of Tony Stark in Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, and that pretty much did the trick in terms of resurrecting his career. Appearing in an unconventional role in Ben Stiller’s war comedy Tropic Thunder later that year, solidified things by getting him an Oscar nomination. Most recently, Downey starred in the sequel Iron Man 2, which also grossed $300 million domestically, which followed his title role in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, a $200 million blockbuster which got Downey his second Golden Globe. Clearly, Downey has gotten over any hurdle that comes from his late-90s arrests and continuing his run of comedies will certainly help to increase his popularity among a growing fanbase.

Since appearing in The Hangover last year, Galifianakis has been everywhere from Disney’s G-Force (his “Shaggy Dog”) to Jason Reitman’s Oscar-nominated Up in the Air to appearances in Michael Cera’s Youth in Revolt and the summer comedy Dinner for Schmucks. Most recently, he was featured in the indie comedy It’s Kind of a Funny Story, which wasn’t one when it opened poorly last month, forcing many to question whether Galifianakis could be a box office draw on his own. (His hosting of “Saturday Night Live” is still considered one of the best in recent years, which means he does have many fans who will see him in the right role and material, which Ethan Tremblay in Due Date most certainly is.)

Although the movie is all about the two stars, it also reunites Downey with Jaime Foxx, following their significantly less funny The Soloist, and with his sexy Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang co-star Michelle Monaghan, both in smaller roles. Like with The Hangover, the movie has a lot of funny side characters, in this case Danny McBride, who is having a huge wave of success with his HBO show “Eastbound and Down,” and Juliette Lewis, who is a Todd Phillips mainstay, having appeared in two of his previous films.

There’s not a lot more that needs to be said, because the movie is a fairly easy sell due to the straightforward premise of putting these two stars in a car on the road to see what happens. As is often the case with R-rated humor, the movie is a lot raunchier than they can show in the commercials, and while in the past, an R-rating for a comedy might limit the amount of money it could make, both lead actors have had huge success with previous R-rated comedies, and the same 20-something plus audience, both male and female, will make Due Date their first choice this weekend hoping that Todd Phillips can deliver a movie as funny as The Hangover.

Why I Should See It: If you think that pairing Robert Downey Jr. with Zach Galifianakis could be hilarious, then you’d probably be right!
Why Not: Can the movie overcome the stigma of following in the tire tracks of classic ’80s road comedies like Vacation and Planes, Trains and Automobiles?
Projections: $31 to 34 million opening weekend and roughly $100 million total.

COMPARISONS


For Colored Girls (Lionsgate)
Starring Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Michael Ealy, Kimberly Elise, Omari Hardwick, Hill Harper, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Tessa Thompson, Kerry Washington, Whoopi Goldberg, Macy Gray, Khalil Kain, Richard Lawson
Written and directed by Tyler Perry (Lots of movies with “Tyler Perry’s” in front of them)
Genre: Drama
Rated R
Tagline: “Many voices. One poem.”
Plot Summary: Media mogul Tyler Perry adapts Ntozake Shange’s Obie Award-winning play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” about a group of nine women trying to deal with a world in which men suck royally.

Interview with Thandie Newton

Interview with Kerry Washington

Review (

Analysis:

Like with the “Saw” franchise last week, some of this column’s regular readers must imagine that I’m terribly cynical and jaded about the African-American playwright and filmmaker who has literally made millions from his ability to tap into what African-American women want from a movie. Perry’s like a one-man “Waiting to Exhale” having movies that grossed $430 million. For Colored Girls is Perry’s tenth movie as a director since 2006′s Madea’s Family Reunion… Sorry, I meant to say Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion… and there are a number of things we can easily deduce from how well or poorly each of those ten movies have done.

In case anyone has forgotten the Tyler Perry formula for success as stated in previous installments of “The Weekend Warrior”:

1.) The movie should be based on one of Tyler Perry’s popular plays
2.) It has to feature his popular cross-dressing character Madea
3.) Ideally, it should have “Madea” actually in the title for those who can’t figure it out from the commercials
4.) Putting Tyler Perry’s name in the title lets people know that this is one of his movies

That last one is kind of a problem this time around because in fact, this is Tyler Perry’s first adaptation of someone else’s play, in this case being Ntozake Shange’s controversial but popular 1975 play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf,” which was culminated from her stirring female-centric poetry. Now it might seem like an odd decision for some for Perry, a prolific playwright in his own right and a self-made millionaire, to want to tackle someone else’s material, but clearly, Shange was an influence on Perry. Also, we can guess that Perry saw how successful Lee Daniels’ Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire was last year during awards season and wanted to get a piece of that pie, something he clearly couldn’t do while dressed up as a gun-toting grandmother.

Now, it’s not uncommon for Perry to have an amazing cast in his movies and for this one, he has a combination of returning favorites and a number of talented actresses who have never worked with him. The biggest name of the bunch is likely to be Janet Jackson, who is only appearing in her fifth movie ever since debuting in John Singleton’s Poetic Justice in 1993, and two of those five were Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? and the sequel released earlier this year. Kimberly Elise may as well be the original Tyler Perry woman, having appeared in his first two movies as a screenwriter, starring in Woman Thou Art Loosed and Diary of a Mad Black Woman, but this is her first time working with him as a director. Loretta Devine also appeared in Woman, Thou Art Loosed and in urban comedies like This Christmas, First Sunday and Death at a Funeral, plus she’s appearing in Perry’s next movie Madea’s Big Happy Family.

Two of the better known actresses among the cast are Kerry Washington and Thandie Newton, who both have starred in influential black films, Washington having starred in the hit movie Ray, while Newton got her start in the Oprah-produced Beloved, directed by Jonathan Demme. Likewise, Anika Noni Rose had a smaller supporting role in the hit Dreamgirls, while the cast is rounded out by veterans like Phylicia Rashad from “The Cosby Show” and Whoopi Goldberg making a return to dramatic film work.

Probably what’s the most interesting thing about Perry’s movie is that this is the latest release he’s received in the year, and many presume that the early holiday launch may be to get the movie some Oscar love. Having seen it, we can definitely see a lot of his cast getting awards attention, possibly a SAG ensemble, but so far, the reviews have been mixed at best and it’s doubtful that the critics who normally aren’t even allowed to see Perry’s movies in advance, will be particularly gracious when they are. Since awards tend to stem from out of early critical rave reviews, Perry is entering the Oscar race with at least one strike against him, although that probably won’t stop his normal fanbase from going to see the movie. If the reviews turn for the better, we might see some non-fans showing up to see the movie down the road, but essentially, the movie will appeal to women mostly with men seeing it only as “dragalongs.”

One thing that’s different and interesting about For Colored Girls is that it’s Perry’s very first R-rated movie, which might limit it from bringing in younger teens, not that it’s an audience who normally flocks to Perry’s films which tend to attract older women. Being that Shange’s play and poetry is probably taught in schools, there may be some teen girls looking to see the movie for inspiration, although one expects it would probably be more college-age women.

For Colored Girls is getting a moderate release into less than 2,400 theaters, which is fairly common for Lionsgate and Perry’s movies, which focus mainly on the urban areas where there are large groups of black women who enjoy his plays. The movie does stand a better chance at legs than some of his previous movies, if only because of the awards buzz circulating it that might have others check it out similar to Precious and Dreamgirls, particularly going into Thanksgiving. Theoretically, it may lose some black business to Denzel Washington’s new movie but women in general will keep the word-of-mouth on it going.

Why I Should See It: It could very well be Tyler Perry’s best movie ever!
Why Not: Even having seen only two of his previous movies, that’s not saying a hell of a lot.
Projections: $22 to 24 million opening weekend and roughly $63 million total.

COMPARISONS


THE CHOSEN ONE:

127 Hours (Fox Searchlight)
Starring James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara, Clemence Poesy, Kate Burton, Lizzy Caplan
Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, The Beach, many more); Written by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, The Full Monty)
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rated R
Tagline: “Every Second Counts”
Plot Summary: Mountain climber Aron Ralston (James Franco) falls into a crevasse with his arm crushed behind a boulder while climbing in the Blue John Canyons of Utah and spends the next five days trying to survive and escape, reflecting back on the friends and family he may never see again if he doesn’t make it.

Interview with Danny Boyle

Review

My Early Thoughts from Toronto

Between my thoughts from this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, my full review and my interview with Danny Boyle above, I feel that I’ve already said a lot about Boyle’s latest movie and I’m not sure that there’s a lot more to be said, but it really is one of my favorite movies of the year along with The Social Network and Inception. Sure, some can probably out me as a bonafide Danny Boyle fanboy of the highest order, but there are so many things about his filmmaking vision I have always admired and appreciated, including his knowledge of the importance of music to set a mood and his reticence at using the typical sweeping strings orchestral scores we see in so many other movies.

So yeah, I went into 127 Hours as a fan hoping that it would live up to my similar experiences with Slumdog Millionaire two years earlier and I wasn’t disappointed. Of course, I had to first wait outside the theater where they were holding the press screening for nearly two hours due to technical difficulties and even with that obstacle to potentially put me in a bad mood, I still loved every second of the movie.

As mentioned in my review, a lot of what makes the movie so enjoyable and entertaining is James Franco’s performance. Franco embodies Aron Ralston as a wild, fun-loving adventurer, and it’s a character that you immediately like even if he’s somewhat reckless. When he gets into a precarious situation that leaves him trapped in the middle of nowhere, you may wonder how Boyle will keep things interesting but a lot of that really comes down to how Franco is able to keep the audience riveted to his every decision in how he will cope and survive despite the odds against him. In the course of those five days, we get deep into his mind, see flashbacks to his past, a number of his hallucinations and dreams, as well as get to see his situation from a lot of different angles.

More than anything, I just loved the way Boyle used the same crew from “Slumdog” for this story of survival in an entirely different location, while maintaining that same sense of excitement and tension in a far more claustrophobic setting. I can’t imagine anyone who sees this movie won’t even consider going hiking or enjoying the great outdoors after seeing the beautiful canyon setting in which the movie takes place and the way that it’s filmed.

One thing that seems to be holding people back, and it’s something that’s extremely frustrating to me, are the reports of journalists/critics passing out during the film’s climactic scene–I even saw this on the news!–and it’s hard not to think that it might put some people off from seeing the movie. Yeah, it’s tough to watch the scene in question but I can’t imagine anyone actually passing out from it–it’s certainly no gorier than anything in a modern horror movie even if being based on a real person and events makes it tougher to watch. I have seen the movie twice with no one passing out, so this may just be a bit of journalistic exaggeration at work.

That aside, Aron Ralston’s story is quite stirring and inspirational, one that really makes you feel good about being alive afterwards. I have said a number of times that it’s one of the best of the year, and I think it ranks among Boyle’s best films as well.

127 Hours opens in New York and L.A. on Friday, but you can bet your bottom dollar it will be nationwide by year’s end.

Honorable Mentions:

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (Magnolia)
Starring Elliot Spitzer, Hank Greenberg, Joseph Bruno, Kenneth Langone, Roger Stone, Cecil Suwal
Written and directed by Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side, Casino Jack and the United States of Money)
Genre: Documentary
Rated R
Tagline: “Money. Sex. Power. Betrayal.”
Plot Summary: Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney explores the political career of former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and how it came to a sudden end when it was learned that he had been spending time with high-priced escorts.

Client 9 opens in New York on Friday and in other cities on November 12.

Interview with Alex Gibney

Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)

Patrick Hughes’ Aussie crime-thriller Red Hill (Arclight Films) stars Ryan Kwanten from “True Blood” as Shane Cooper, a young police officer arriving at the remote town of Red Hill with his pregnant wife to start a family, but a prison break sends a convicted murderer named Jimmy Conway back to the town seeking revenge with Shane caught in the middle.

Red Hill opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)

Also in Limited Release:

Directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity), the political drama Fair Game (Summit) stars Naomi Watts and Sean Penn as CIA operative Valerie Plame and her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, whose involvement in uncovering the lack of WMDs in Iraq makes them a target for the government, who leak Valerie’s identity to the press. It opens in select cities on Friday.

Interview with Doug Liman

Interview with Naomi Watts

Review

British comedian Chris Morris’ dark comedy Four Lions (Drafthouse Films) follows a group of Muslims living in England who decide to plot a terrorist action, except these four guys are completely incompetent and can barely blow their noses, let alone blow anything up. It opens in select cities including New York, L.A., Austin, Washington D.C., Boston and Seattle on Friday before expanding into other cities down the road.

Interview with Chris Morris

Director Rachid Bouchareb (Days of Glory (Indigènes) returns with Outside the Law (Cohen Media Group), a gangster movie set in 1950′s France where three brothers (Jamel Debbouze, Roschdy Zem, Sami Bouajila) deal with racism towards Algerians by the authorities. While the youngest brother turns to nightclubs and training boxers to earn a living, his older brothers take to the streets trying to start a revolution and gain freedom from their oppressors. It opens in New York on Friday and in L.A. on November 10.

Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)

Jeffrey Fine’s Cherry (Abramorama) stars Kyle Gallner from Nightmare on Elm Street as Aaron, a college freshman who becomes involved in an unrequited love triangle with a mother (Laura Allen) and her teenage daughter (Britt Robertson), making his life more complicated. It opens in New York at the Village East Cinemas on Friday.

Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)

Damien Chazelle’s indie musical romance Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (Variance Films) follows two Boston individuals trying to find new love after their relationship falls apart, a jazz trumpeter with a wandering eye and his introverted ex, who ends up moving to New York in order to get over his indiscretion. Having premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2009, it will open in select cities on Friday.

Crayton Robey’s documentary Making the Boys (First Run Features) looks at the problems it took mounting the first-ever gay play, “The Boys in the Band,” and a Hollywood movie based on it to mainstream audiences, as it divided those in the gay community even four decades after the formation of the Gay Rights Movement.


Next week, three more movies open nationwide… Yay! Denzel Washington and Chris Pine try to stop a runaway train in Tony Scott’s Unstoppable (20th Century Fox), humans try to stop runaway aliens in Skyline (Rogue/Universal) and Rachel McAdams tries to stop Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton from eating up the scenery in the romantic comedy Morning Glory (Paramount).

Copyright 2010 Edward Douglas

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