Weekend Openings (August 12-14)

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Oscarphiles should be interested in at least one new release this week.  The rest, well…take a look:

White people are awesome! Our first wide release of this weekend actually opened last Wednesday, the adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel The Help.  The feel-good drama stars Emma Stone as a young journalist who befriends two African-American maids and strives to tell their stories, breaking down the societal barriers of 1960’s Jackson, Mississippi in the process.  Despite decent reviews – with particular praise heaped on its three central performances – the film has kicked up somewhat of a heated debate over the portrayal of its subject matter.  The Association of Black Women has already spoken out against it, other critics are rushing to its defense, and I’m left wondering where all this indignation was when The Blind Side came out.  I’ll leave it to you to decide whether these criticisms are justified.  As for box office, I feel that competition will probably keep The Help from being a huge success, but serious-minded adults fatigued from sci-fi and juvenile comedies should propel it to around $17-22 million.  Oscar-wise, I’ve got three words for you: Best.  Supporting.  Actress.  In particular, Viola Davis has been chalked up as a lock despite being widely acknowledged as arguably a lead in the film (which one might argue is yet another reflection of racist attitudes permeating this film) and Octavia Spencer has a good chance of making it as well.  Some stock has also been placed on Jessica Chastain, Sissy Spacek and Bryce Dallas Howard’s performances.  We’ll be keeping track of them all on The Awards Circuit.

Death appears to be...running out of ideas. Also in wide release is the heist comedy 30 Minutes or Less.  Loosely based on a real event, Jesse Eisenberg plays a pizza delivery guy who gets kidnapped by Danny McBride and Nick Swardson, who then force him to rob a bank with a bomb strapped to his chest.  Critics say the plot just gets more convoluted from there, and not in a good way, and despite some isolated moments of fun the film is so uneven and nonsensical it fails make any impression.  August often produces at least one surprise hit comedy, and with the failure of The Change-Up Ruben Fleischer and Eisenberg could very well repeat the success they had with Zombieland.  Okay, maybe not that successful, but $18-23 million is not out of the question.

You could also make your trip to the theater your…FINAL DESTINATION!  Yes, it appears that not even a definite article can stop the omnipresent threat of death’s “design.”  I won’t even waste your time with a plot synopsis since we all know that it’s going to be the same as every previous installment.  Critics are all in agreement about the rest of the film being roughly the same as well, and although some claim it’s one of the better ones in the series, there aren’t any deviations from the normal routine, either.  Of all the new releases, Final Destination 5 stands the best chance of deposing Rise of the Planet of the Apes at the box office.  Horror fans are probably jonesing for something scary and gruesome at this point, and with healthy online activity, I predict a good $20-25 million by Sunday.

Glee: The 3D Concert Movie is finally here for the fans of the hit TV show…or they could just watch the show for “free” instead.  Reviews – both positive and negative – acknowledge that this is strictly for Gleeks.   But online activity has been almost nonexistent, and the potential female demographic will likely be lured away by The Help.  I can’t see this breaking into the double-digit grosses this weekend.

Maybe this is our Best Documentary champ? The only notable film in limited release is the biographical documentary Senna.  The chronicle of world-renowned motor racing champion Ayrton Senna’s rise to fame on the Formula One circuit has received near-universal acclaim from critics, declaring it a compelling, sobering film with near-mythical scope and grandeur.  There seems to be quite a lot of critically hailed documentaries this year, and it’s becoming difficult for me to tell which ones will make the Best Documentary Feature shortlist.  Time will tell if this one will go all the way…

As always, tell us what you saw and what you thought of these films on The Awards Circuit!