Happy Saturday, dear readers. There are only two new films opening wide this week, but there are also several new limited releases that are…intriguing to say the least.
The first of two wide releases this weekend is Rio from Blue Sky Studios, telling the story of a domesticated macaw from a small Midwestern town who falls in love with a free-spirited girl macaw and goes on an adventure with her to Rio de Janeiro. These guys haven’t made a really good flick since Ice Age, but that could change this weekend if the reviews for this one are any indication. Critics are calling Rio a charming and lovely family film that has been inaccurately represented by its marketing campaign. If it’s a financial success (and I feel that families will propel it to a strong $35 million opening weekend), you can probably bet on it as a likely nominee for Best Animated Feature.
There is also Wes Craven’s attempt to recapture his glory days with Scream 4, oops, sorry, I mean Scre4m. Neve Campbell – what the hell happened to her, anyway? – reprises her role as Sidney Prescott, who returns to Woodsboro to reconnect with her past as well as the now-married Gale and Dewey. But Ghostface decides to make a comeback and put them in terror once again. Reviews have been fairly divisive for this one. Some critics call it a tedious rehash of the previous installments, while others praise it as an entertaining update of a successful formula. Surprisingly, the moviegoer buzz for this one has been huge. Several outlets including The Numbers, Reel Source and BoxOffice.com are all tracking the film to hit at least $50 million in its first weekend. I’m not entirely sure how that’s possible; it has been over a decade since the release of the third installment, the lowest-grossing, worst-reviewed one in the series. Are there really that many older fans thirsting for some nostalgia, or is the film simply attracting huge swaths of teens despite them being too young to have enjoyed the series when it first hit the scene? Or are Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere bigger box office draws than I imagined? Anyway, I’ll cautiously hop aboard the “Weekend #1” train as well, but I’m doing it with a more conservative $40-45 million estimate. Feel free to throw this prediction back at my face if I end up being disastrously wrong.
It’s only appearing in one theater nationwide (for now), but I have a feeling Armadillo will be one of the most talked-about documentaries of the year and may very well expand to a lot more locations. Following a platoon of Danish soldiers fighting the Taliban in the Helmand province of southern Afghanistan, filmmaker Janus Metz captures their experiences and how war transforms them. Critics hail it as an intense, illuminating experience with drama that rivals most fiction narratives. Will it be a contender for Best Documentary Feature? Does it even matter? I would keep an eye on this one…
Tea Partiers might be interested in the adaptation of Ayn Rand’s famous dystopian novel Atlas Shrugged. In development hell for many decades, the first part of a planned trilogy is finally hitting select theaters this week and is hoping to make a tidy profit on a grassroots/viral campaign spread among members of the notorious right-wing populist movement. Your enjoyment of this film will probably depend on how much you subscribe to its agenda, since the story and direction have been relentlessly thrashed by the few critics who have had the chance to see it. That probably won’t deter loyal Rand devotees, but are there enough of them to make this film a success and finance the next two parts? I guess we’ll find out soon…
After several months of delays, Robert Redford is finally releasing the historical biopic The Conspirator on the 146th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln. The film stars Robin Wright as Mary Surratt, the first woman executed by the U.S. government. Those hoping for an Oscar nomination for the film’s frequently snubbed star are probably out of luck; its mixed reviews and limited opening will more than likely kill another chance Wright has of being recognized by the Academy.
As always, look for reviews of these films soon on The Awards Circuit!