Greetings and welcome back to the last Weekend Warrior of 2010, as always 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.
(All of the prediction below are for Friday through Sunday.)
UPDATE: We still don’t have actual theater counts for Gulliver’s Travels and some of the others but we want to put this year’s run of columns under our belt so this will be our last update… Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, everyone!)
1. Little Fockers (Universal) – $42.6 million N/A (down .9 million)
2. TRON: Legacy (Walt Disney) – $24.3 million -45% (up .1 million)
3. True Grit (Paramount) – $19.0 million N/A (Up 1.7 million)
4. Gulliver’s Travels (20th Century Fox) – $13.0 million (two days only!) N/A (down .2 million)
5. Yogi Bear (Warner Bros.) – $10.7 million -35% (same)
6. The Fighter (Paramount) – $8.0 million -34% (same)
7. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (20th Century Fox) – $7.5 million -39% (Up .7 million)
8. Black Swan (Fox Searchlight) – $6.2 million -26% (up .3 million)
9. Tangled (Walt Disney) – $5.3 million -37% (down .2 million)
10. The Tourist (Sony) – $4.7 million -45%
— The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Co.) – $4.0 million
Christmas is officially upon us… where did the year go? I don’t know, but it’s over now with just three more movies hoping to make a mark. Two of them will open on Wednesday to get a bit of lead-up business to the holiday weekend and the third opening on Christmas Day proper. Holiday weekends can be difficult to predict in general, but this one is especially tricky with the Friday falling on Christmas Eve, a notoriously slow day for moviegoers, though Sunday should be able to more than make up for it as we begin one of the busiest movie weeks of the year.
The easy winner for the weekend is the threequel Little Fockers (Universal), reteaming the hot comedy team of Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro, who helped take the previous installment Meet the Fockers to $275 million when it opened on the same day six years ago. The franchise may have stalled in the six years since then and the trailer and commercials haven’t been that well received which may signal another threequel that fails to match the success of its predecessor. Either way, the comedy should appeal to the widest range of audiences, both young and old, male and female, which will make it a good choice for families to see as a group during the week where there’s no school and few people are working.
The Coen Brothers have their widest release to date with the Western True Grit (Paramount), starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, which shouldn’t be as affected by the normal Christmas Eve drop-off as other movies. It should have a strong opening week, building off the critical and awards recognition it’s been receiving. We can see it making roughly $30 million in its first five days and then bringing in a steady stream of business through the holidays.
Opening on Saturday’s Christmas Day and thereby only having two days of box office gross for the weekend is the Jack Black family adventure Gulliver’s Travels (20th Century Fox), which may have a tough time taking on the all-powerful “Fockers” as well as Yogi Bear in its second weekend, but it should be able to do decent business as families with kids and ‘tweens will have another option for their holiday entertainment.
Tom Hooper’s acclaimed The King’s Speech will finally expand nationwide on Christmas Day into roughly 600 theaters, which should allow it to bring in roughly $4 million, not quite enough to get into the Top 10, but continuing its slow build to inevitable Oscar nominations in January.
This week’s “Chosen One” is the animated The Illusionist (Sony Pictures Classics) and then next week, you should check out Alejandro González Iñárittu’s Biutiful (Roadside Attractions), starring Javier Bardem, and Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine (The Weinstein Co.) with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. We’ll have more about all three of them in the coming week or so.
This weekend last year, James Cameron’s Avatar remained on top of the box office with $75.6 million, barely down from its opening weekend with a ten-day gross of $212 million on the way to a new domestic record. Coming in a strong second was Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes (Warner Bros.), starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, which opened on Friday to make $62.4 million over its first weekend. Third place went to Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (20th Century Fox), which opened on Wednesday and grossed $26.8 million in its first two days and another $49 million over the weekend. Fourth place went to the Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin comedy It’s Complicated (Universal), which also opened on Friday and made $22 million in 2,886 theaters. Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air (Paramount), starring George Clooney, expanded wide into 1,895 theaters to make $11.3 million for sixth place.
The Top 10 grossed $255 million but that was also with Friday falling on the 26th, which meant that the entire weekend was made-up of the type of huge days we normally see following Christmas Day; this weekend probably won’t match that due to slower business on Friday but all movies should make up for it in the week that follows.
Little Fockers (Universal)
Starring Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Blythe Danner, Jessica Alba, Laura Dern, Harvey Keitel, Teri Polo, Barbra Streisand
Directed by Paul Weitz (American Dreamz, In Good Company, About a Boy, Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, Down to Earth, American Pie); Written by John Hamburg (I Love You, Man, Along Came Polly, Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers) and Larry Stuckey (Elling)
Tagline: “Kids bring everyone closer, right?”
Plot Summary: Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and his wife Pam (Teri Polo) now have six-year-old twins and they’re worried about their son Henry (Colin Baiocchi) falling well behind their daughter Sam (Daisy Tahan) in terms of development. When Greg’s father-in-law Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) comes to visit, Greg needs to step up his game to prove he can be the head of the household after Jack is gone. At the same time, Greg is being courted by a perky drug rep (Jessica Alba) to represent their new erectile dysfunction remedy, and Jack thinks his son-in-law’s eye may be wandering.
“Meet the Parents” was one of the funniest comedies of the last decade, so hopes that a threequel can return to what made that original movie work so well might be wasted, though there’s no denying that the cast, producers and original screenwriter John Hamburg do try their best to recapture the magic of that film. The premise for this second sequel revolves around Greg becoming the “Godfocker,” a reference to one of De Niro’s most famous movies that is barely worth a snicker let alone a recurring joke, and Greg once again has to prove himself to his father-in-law while dealing with a daughter who won’t talk to him and a son who seems to be rather dim.
It’s fairly obvious that the scenes between Stiller and De Niro continue to be the best moments in the movie and they make the most of it, even if that ultimately means reviving gags from the previous two movies. Yeah, there really isn’t much ground to cover here, even when Jessica Alba shows up as a ditzy drug rep with the name “Andi Garcia”–and yes, they do go for the obvious joke on her name–who spends much of her time acting like a cheerleader and throwing herself at Greg in the most awkward ways possible. Owen Wilson makes a welcome return as Kevin and he has some good bits, but Dustin Hoffman barely appears in the movie as both he and Barbara Streisand are saved until the very end when they play up their larger-than-life characters.
The great thing about “Meet the Parents” is that every joke had a beginning, middle and end and every joke was followed through to produce the biggest laughs. This movie is overrun with schtick that goes for the most immediate laughs as if they were geared solely towards the trailers and commercials, but none of them go anywhere. When Greg cuts his finger carving the turkey, blood sprays everywhere and it’s never referred to again. Other gags are handled in the same way, going for a quick laugh but never following through. (Screenwriter John Hamburg even recycles the projectile vomiting gag that worked so much better in “I Love You, Man”) When you’ve already seen some of the funnier bits in the marketing campaign, it makes for a fairly predictable comedy. When Greg and Jack finally go at it, and you see a kiddies’ ball pit behind them, you know almost instantly where things are going. Sure enough…
A lot of the problems can and should be blamed on director Paul Weitz, who brazenly steps in for Jay Roach, but he’s already shown a number of times that comedy timing isn’t his strong suit, particularly when he’s not teamed with brother Chris, and he just doesn’t put the reins on his cast or provide any sort of structure for the comedy to build.
While “Little Fockers” still offers a few laughs and you can do far worse during the holidays–look for our review of “Gulliver’s Travels” on Friday–there’s something clearly missing from this that makes you think this movie may have fared better if it was made three years ago… or not at all.
In 2000, Jay Roach found a long-gestating screenplay and came up with the brilliant idea to team burgeoning comic superstar Ben Stiller and one of the most respected American dramatic actors of the previous three decades, Mr. Robert De Niro, in a comic vehicle that everyone can relate to, meeting your girlfriend or boyfriend’s parents. The appropriately-titled Meet the Parents became a huge hit with a gross of $166 million despite opening in the month of October. It was Ben Stiller’s second big hit after the Farrellys’ There’s Something About Mary and it set things up for Stiller to become one of the biggest comedy stars of the ’00s. It also brought a new relevance to the aged actor who had moved on from working with Martin Scorsese but hadn’t really made much of a mark on his own. Meet the Parents was an even bigger hit than De Niro’s pairing with Billy Crystal in Analyze This.
Six years ago, the two reteamed for the sequel Meet the Fockers, which opened on the exact same Christmas weekend and exploded with $70.5 million in its first five days leading to nearly $280 million total. To date, it’s still Ben Stiller’s highest-grossing movie and that includes the family-minded Night at the Museum and Madagascar movies and their respective sequels. De Niro hasn’t really been doing much in terms of getting people into theaters since then with starring vehicles like What Just Happened, Everybody’s Fine and the recent Stone barely making much money. Many moviegoers have loved seeing the serious actor doing comedy and his return to the franchise certainly will make some people happy.
One big factor in this threequel is that Owen Wilson is back as Kevin in a much bigger role than the previous movie. He and Stiller have proven to be a formidable combo, having made a good number of movies together over the years, starting with Zoolander, through this franchise and the “Night at the Museum” movies. Wilson’s most recent movie How Do You Know bombed this past weekend, but he has a lot more credibility when teamed with Stiller as they’re a pairing that’s brought so much to so many movies including Todd Phillips’ Starsky & Hutch. Similarly, Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand are back from the last movie, and they’ll do a lot to bring in older moviegoers, along with De Niro. Apparently, someone wondered what might happen when you pair the star of Good Luck Harvey with Good Luck Chuck, which is the only real explanation why Jessica Alba is in the movie as a ditzy drug rep – yes, one whom is even ditzier than Jake Gyllenhaal in Love and Other Drugs. Alba doesn’t do a lot of comedy, probably for good reason, but she is still very hot.
Taking over the directorial chair from Jay Roach is Paul Weitz, who made great in-roads into Hollywood with his brother Chris, the two of them directing the hit American Pie and popular films like About a Boy before Paul directed In Good Company and then a string of bombs like American Dreamz and last year’s Cirque Du Freak. It’s doubtful that anyone cares who directs the movie as long as it has all the characters they love.
And that’s where Little Fockers may hit its biggest stumbling block. Although Meet the Fockers was a huge blockbuster with long legs, you probably won’t find too many people who absolutely loved it even if they love the cast. It’s been six years which means that other movies like The Hangover have taken the franchise’s thunder, although that amount of time might actually be good since it puts enough time behind the bad sequel that people may have forgotten how bad it was. Regardless of whether anyone really wanted to see more of the Focker-Byrnes conflict after Meet the Fockers, the threequel may open slightly softer on Wednesday and Thursday than its predecessor, because there isn’t the type of anticipation as there was for the sequel. With very few movies that both women and men can enjoy equally, as well as the appeal to different demographics, the comedy should pick up a bit for the weekend and then the week following Christmas should allow it a lot of business as moviegoers look for ways to keep themselves entertained. While it should have enough draw to stay on top for a few weeks, the impending double-comedy weekend of January 14 will likely end its run at the top.
Why I Should See It: The movie is trying to get back to what made the original movie Meet the Parents so great.
Why Not: Paul Weitz just isn’t strong enough a director to help control such a
Projections: $17 to 18 million on Wednesday and Thursday, then another $6 or 8 million on Friday and another $37 to 40 million over the weekend on its way to $175 million total.
True Grit (Paramount)
Starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Hailee Steinfeld
Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men, Fargo, Burn After Reading, The Big Lebowski, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, Raising Arizona, A Serious Man and lots more)
Tagline: “Punishment comes one way or another”
Plot Summary: Mattie Rose (Hailee Stanfield) is hellbent on finding and either capturing or killing Tom Cheney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed her father. Joining her posse is the ornery bounty hunter Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) who want to capture Cheney for their own reasons.
One of the key factors that will define 2010 is that it was the year when remakes and reboots went completely bonkers from Tim Burton taking on Alice in Wonderland to remakes of Clash of the Titans and The Karate Kid and other ’80s faves being brought back into the limelight like Predators and The A-Team and last week’s TRON: Legacy. With that in mind, it might seem strange to some that Joel and Ethan Coen, two of the most distinctive and innovative filmmakers in America, would decide to make a movie with the same title as one of the most well-known Westerns out there, the original movie starring no less than John Wayne. While the Coens have gone back to the original book to readapt it, this is essentially their second remake following the 2003 comedy The Ladykillers starring Tom Hanks, which did decently but lost the Coens a bit of respect among cinephiles. They then disappeared for a few years and returned with their adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, which became their highest grossing hit with $74 million, as well as pretty much sweeping the Oscars.
True Grit marks the reunion of the Coens with Jeff Bridges, aka “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski, a popular movie among their fanbase but a movie that never fared particularly well beyond its cult status, which led to entire festivals dedicated to the movie. Bridges has been a popular actor since the ’70s, but really exploding in the ’80s with movies like TRON and Starman. His popularity continued through the ’90s but the ’00s began with a mixed bag of projects culminating with his casting in Jon Favreau’s Iron Man and his first Oscar win as a lead actor for the indie drama Crazy Heart earlier this year. Bridges clearly has been able to traverse generations which is why he was able to host “Saturday Night Live” this past weekend as well as bring in a younger audience with his return to one of his most popular characters with last week’s TRON: Legacy.
Possibly an even bigger draw is the presence of actor Matt Damon who is prominently advertised on the posters and who brings a bit more starpower than Bridges, even though other than the “Jason Bourne” and “Danny Ocean” movies, Damon’s movies generally have opened in the $10 to 15 million range rather than those blockbusters getting audiences in for his other movies. For example, Damon’s last four movies ended up grossing less than $40 million where many of his bigger movies might do that amount their opening weekend. The Coens also reunite with Josh Brolin, a second-generation actor whose elevation to another level as a star was helped with his starring role in their Oscar winning No Country for Old Men. Although Brolin is also featured in the posters, his role is fairly small compared to the other two.
The real star of the movie though is newcomer Hailee Steinfeld who plays Mattie and though she’s not mentioned on the posters, she has been getting quite a bit of awards attention, having been nominated for a number of critics awards.
The Western has had an interesting history in recent years with Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood being the purveyors of two of the more popular recent Westerns, though other directors have tried their hand with less sucesss such as Ron Howard with his movie The Missing. In 2007, James Mangold directed the relatively successful action-packed remake of 3:10 to Yuma starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, but then later that same month, the Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, starring Brad Pitt, failed to make a mark, never even going wide. (Probably the title was too long to fit on marquees.) And then there’s Jonah Hex (also starring Brolin), which we probably shouldn’t even mention in fear of causing seizures in anyone who saw it.
What might not be surprising is that there doesn’t seem to be very much of a draw for women due to the genre even if the presence of Damon and Brolin and even Bridges might counteract that slightly, since they all have their female fans ranging from 20 to 60 or higher. Even so, the movie is getting an ultrawide release into over 3,000 theaters, the Coens’ widest release ever, something one can credit to their partnering with Paramount Pictures, who also have given the movie an incredible ad campaign which includes cool vintage Western posters and commercials which focus on the Coens’ distinctive humor. Reviews have generally been good and the movie has gotten quite a few awards nods despite being snubbed by the Hollywood Foreign Press last week for the Golden Globes.
Either way, Christmas time is a great weekend to release a movie like this because a lot of the potential older audience for the movie will generally have off from work and there’s a chance that families with grown-up kids in their 20s and 30s can go see this as a group as an alternate to Little Fockers. The movie should do decent business on Wednesday and Thursday and hold steady through the weekend without much of a dip due to Christmas Eve and Day, since the Coens’ have a strong Jewish fanbase who won’t really have much else to do the weekend. (In fact, so does Stiller, Hoffman and Barbara Streisand, so those who don’t celebrate Christmas will have plenty of options.)
Why I Should See It: The Coen Brothers are two of the country’s finest filmmakers and it will be interesting to see what they do with the Western genre.
Why Not: Many great Westerns have failed to make their mark at the box office.
Projections: $12 to 13 million on Wednesday and Thursday and another $16 to 18 million over the weekend on its way to roughly $65 million total, more if it gets Oscar nominations.
Gulliver’s Travels (20th Century Fox)
Starring Jack Black, Emily Blunt, Jason Segel, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, James Corden, Catherine Tate, Chris O’Dowd
Directed by Rob Letterman (Monsters vs. Aliens, Shark Tale); Written by Nicholas Stoller (Fun with Dick and Jane, Yes Man, Get Him to the Greek), Joe Stillman (Shrek, Shrek 2, Planet 51)
Genre: Comedy, Family, Adventure
Tagline: “Black is the new big.” (oooooooooookay, then)
Plot Summary: When travel writer Lemuel Gulliver (Jack Black) gets the plum assignment to write about Bermuda, he sails through the Bermuda Triangle and instead ends up in the land of Liliput where he is a giant towering over the populace.
Weirder things have happened over the holidays then having a movie that reinvents Jonathan Swift’s popular literary classic as a comedy vehicle for Jack Black or as he’s being credited for the movie, “Jack Black, the Voice of Kung Fu Panda.” Yes, it’s come to the fact that Black is such a cartoon character that the studio feels the need to remind people that his biggest movie was when he voiced another cartoon character that is popular with kids. Black’s popularity has remained fairly steady with moderate hits like the family-friendly School of Rock, but it was indeed providing his voice for DreamWorks Animation’s hit animated comedy Kung Fu Panda that has put Black on the map among that audience. At the same time, his teen and older audience seems to have waned due to weaker comedies like Year One.
Gulliver’s Travels gives Black a lot of chances to ham it up and play off the fact that he’s hanging with a lot of little people. It’s co-written by Nick Stoller, who directed the R-rated Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek, but has also been involved with some absolutely atrocious comedies released over the holidays, both starring Jim Carrey in fact, one being the remake of Fun with Dick and Jane, the other being last year’s Yes Man. He’s teamed with Joe Stillman and director Rob Letterman, who have been involved with a number of DreamWorks Animation hits, the former co-writing the first two “Shrek” movies, the latter directing Shark Tale and Monsters vs. Aliens.
Obviously, 20th Century Fox would like to see the movie do as well as Ben Stiller’s Night at the Museum did when it opened over Christmas four years ago, grossing $30 million in the weekend just before the holiday and then exploding with $250 million over the months to come. (That movie even had a little bit of its own take on the Swift classic.) That probably won’t happen, but there’s at least some hope of the movie doing as well as Adam Sandler’s Bedtime Stories, which did eventually gross $100 million after a weak opening.
What’s somewhat strange is that at the last minute, 20th Century Fox decided to move the release of the movie from the Wednesday before Christmas to Christmas Day proper, probably assuming that the movie would get overshadowed by Little Fockers anyway, and that the movie’s primarily kid and family audience wouldn’t be available to see it until then. That means that it’s essentially getting a two-day weekend against other movie’s three days, which means it probably won’t be able to open above fourth place. Not that it will matter much to the kids who want to see the movie or their parents, but it just won’t look as good for a movie that probably cost quite a bit of dough.
Reviews aren’t going to be very good, and the movie has the same problem as Will Ferrell’s Land of the Lost in that it’s trying to get Black’s teen and older fans with stunts like him taking over MySpace, but it’s still seen as a kiddie movie and there’s stuff in the movie clearly not for younger kids.
The movie is in 3D; we probably don’t need to say anything more about that. We should mention though that family movies do huge business over Christmas with school out and that should be no exception as the movie should bring in a significant amount of business every day next week without much drop-off until school starts in January. Even if it’ll lose business on Friday and Sunday then, there are also no real family movies for most of January, giving the movie a good long stretch to bring in families with kids.
Why I Should See It: Jack Black can be funny when given the right material and vehicle.
Why Not: We’re not sure that this movie offers either.
Projections: Probably $5 to 6 million on Saturday and another $7 to 8 million on Sunday, which comes to somewhere between $12 and 14 million on its first two-day weekend but watch it explode in the week to come and end up with $60 to 65 million total.
The Chosen One for 12/22/10
We’re going to do something a little different this week because of the number of movies released and because we want to get motoring on our Oscar picks and Top 25 lists, so check back later this week for our thoughts on some of the movies coming out this week and next.
The Illusionist (Sony Pictures Classics)
Directed by Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville); Written by Jacques Tati, Sylvain Chomet
Genre: Animation, Drama
Plot Summary: An aging magician performing at a village pub in Scotland encounters the naïve young Alice who believes his magic to be real. Trying hard not to disappoint her, he continues to lavish her with elaborate gifts he claims to produce using his magic once she follows him back to London. Adapted by Chomet from a segment in Jacques Tati’s film classic Jour de Fête.
Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)
It opens in New York and L.A. on Christmas Day.
Incidentally if you live in New York and you’re a fan of great animation, the Film Society of Lincoln Center is having a special tribute to the late Anime great Satoshi Kon, who directed many wonderful Japanese animated films. They’re offering a double package of his films Paprika and Perfect Blue for $18 this Wednesday. You can find out more and get tickets here.
Secret Sunshine (IFC Films)
Starring Jeon Do-yeon, Song Kang-ho
Written and directed by Lee Chang-Dong
Plot Summary: After moving to the small town of Miryang with her young son to show him where her late husband grew up, a young widow (Jeon Do-Yeon) starts attracting the attention of a simple-minded mechanic (Song Kang-ho from “The Host”), but after a terrible accident, she starts trying to find a new direction in life that leads to all sorts of major changes.
Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)
It opens at the IFC Center on Wednesday.
Also in Limited Release:
Stephen Dorff stars in Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere (Focus Features) playing successful actor Johnny Marco who spends his days lounging at Hollywood’s Chauteau Marmont, partying and watching strippers, until he’s put in charge of his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning), forcing him to become a more responsible human being. It opens in New York and L.A. on Wednesday.
Review (Coming Soon!)
Gwyneth Paltrow stars in Shana Feste’s Country Strong (Screen Gems) as an emotionally unstable country singer who becomes involved with a rising young singer-songwriter (Garrett Hedlund) and they embark on a comeback tour along with her husband (Tim McGraw) and a pretty younger singer (Leighton Meester from “Gossip Girl”). For whatever reason, it’s opening in L.A. and Nashville on Wednesday on Wednesday, yet it hasn’t even screened in New York City, so whatever.
The Chosen One(s) for 12/29/10
Biutiful (Roadside Attractions)
Starring Javier Bardem, Maricel Álvarez, Hanaa Bouchaib, Guillermo Estrella, Eduard Fernández, Cheikh Ndiaye, Diaryatou Daff, Taisheng Cheng, Jin Luo 2
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams, Amores Perros); Written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Armando Bo, Nicolás Giacobone
Plot Summary: Uxbal (Javier Bardem) is a street hustler in Barcelona who one day learns that he’s dying, so he tries to make amends with his estranged bipolar wife (Maricel Álvarez) and spend time with his two kids as much as possible before he’s taken by the debilitating disease eating away at him.
Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)
It opens in New York and L.A. on Wednesday, December 29
Blue Valentine (The Weinstein Co.)
Starring Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel, John Doman, Maryann Plunkett
Written and directed by Derek Cianfrance (Brother Tied) with Cami Delavigne, Joey Curtis
Plot Summary: Married for six years, Dean and Cindy (Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams) suddenly see cracks forming in their marriage, and while Dean tries his best to save it, Cindy has gotten tired of having to deal with a man-child who refuses to grow up. This film explores the beginning of their relationship and its ending.
Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)
It also opens in New York and L.A. Wednesday, December 29.
Interview with Derek Cianfrance (Next week)
Also in Limited Release Next Week:
Mike Leigh’s new movie Another Year (Sony Pictures Classics) stars Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen as happily-married couple Tom and Gerri, following a year in their life as they try to placate Gerri’s co-worker and friend Mary (Lesley Manville) who frequently visits them and unburdens her problems on them. It opens on Wednesday, December 29, in select cities.
Another Year is an odd follow-up to Mike Leighs Happy Go Lucky in that its another modern-day story about everyday people, and it could very well be his take on Seinfeld because the film is mainly made up of people sitting around talking about nothing. The film revolves around Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen as a happily married couple, Tom and Gerri, and the satellite characters around them from their son Joe to their long-time friends Mary and Ken.
The opening scene of a depressed woman, played by Imelda Staunton, talking to a counselor is a sign of the dour things to come, and that scene may have been more effective if it had any relation to the rest of the movie. From there, we meet Tom and Gerri and their circle of friends and clearly the one that immediately pops out is Lesley Manville as Gerris co-worker Mary. At times, shes as upbeat as Poppy in Happy Go Lucky, the next moment, shes absolutely miserable. She also has an awkward attraction to the couples grown-up son Joe; Toms out-of-shape Ken in turn is attracted to Mary.
Another Year isnt fully a drama or a comedy, and its hard really to find much of a plot in it regardless of what it is. Even more than some of Leighs other films, it essentially coasts along on the interaction of the characters, but it doesnt feel like one of Leighs better screenplays in terms of the dialogue, which involves a lot of puns and joking around, some of it feeling awkwardly improvised. Much of that off-hand joking gives the film a strange tone since its all going around Marys slowly-deteriorating mood. Leigh adds to the downbeat mood with the minimal score.
Manville is clearly the best part of the movie to the point where the bits of the movie without her lose a lot. The third segment is where we really see things start going sour for Mary as Joe comes home with new girlfriend Katey, and Marys immediately jealous and unpleasant due to her own feelings towards Joe. As amazing as it is to watch Manville display Marys ever-changing moods, she turns it on and off a bit too suddenly, being sweet and pleasant towards Joe that utterly unpleasant towards Ken or Joes new girlfriend. Its quite impressive for an actress to be able to switch gears so effortlessly, but it does seem unnatural and it makes her less likeable as well. Its much easier to like Tom and Gerri, though they do end up throwing Mary under the bus when she needs them most, Gerri wiping her hands of Mary due to her negative comments about Joes girlfriend.
This last segment is almost a short film in itself, as the family travels North for the funeral of Toms brothers wife. Dave Bradley brings a lot to the role of Toms brother Ronnie, and his son Carl bringing some much needed excitement to the mix; when Ronnie and Mary come together, its one of the more touching moments before were pulled even deeper into Marys depression as the film ends.
Those who enjoy watching dull people leading rather ordinary lives might be able to endure the grueling pace and appreciate the performances, but if Leigh were trying to make some sort of statement on life or aging or relationships or the current depressed climate in his country, it never quite materializes as effectively as planned. Another Year is an interesting character study, but an even bigger downer than Vera Drake.
Also opening that day at the IFC Center in New York is 102 year-old Portugese filmmaker Manoel (The Convent) de Oliveira’s The Strange Case of Angelica (Cinema Guild) about a young photographer who becomes obsessed with a beautiful young woman he photographs after she’s died.
ADDITION! Lastly, and also opening at the IFC Center on the same day is Mamuro Hosoda’s Summer Wars, a Japanese animated film that won the Japanese Academy Award for an animated feature. It’s the story about a math prodigy named Kenji who is recruited by a girl he has a crush on to pretend to be his boyfriend for her grandmother’s 90th birthday, but when Kenji solves math riddle sent to his celphone, he unleashes an evil AI program named Love Machine who proceeds to cause chaos unless they can stop it.
This is the last column of 2010 but see you in 2011 when we kick things off with Nicolas Cage’s period action-thriller Season of the Witch (Relativity Media) although that will likely be another minimal column so we could prepare for the big weekend that follows.
Copyright 2010 Edward Douglas