Weekend Openings (July 15-17)

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This is it, readers.  The end of a decade-long saga.  The final chapter of, for many, a beloved series of adventures:

Will this be the highest-grossing film of the year, or of all time?  There isn't a third option. I am of course referring to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which will conclude one of the most successful film franchises of all time.  After the protracted and boring build-up of the previous installment, the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort should be the explosive finale that the series deserves.  Luckily, the anticipation is higher than ever for this installment, and the glowing reviews can only help it.  HPATDH: II is the most acclaimed film in the octalogy, and several critics are claiming that this is the absolute best installment.  Even without such positive reception, this is poised to be one of THE must-see movies of the year.  Over 5,000 sold-out screenings and $32 million in advance sales are just the tip of what I predict will be a $150-160 million opening.

The geniuses at Disney have decided that this is the perfect weekend to release their newest film Winnie the Pooh, a sequel/reboot of sorts to the beloved characters and stories of A. A. Milne.  I have to admit, the trailer looks…wrong to me, but the critics are very positive on this release, calling it a cute, innocuous children’s film that should entertain those too young to handle the intense material of Harry Potter.  Everyone else might see this movie some other time, but not this weekend, giving it a slightly less than $10 million take by Sunday.

Errol Morris explores yet another fascinatingly lurid subject... In limited release is the South African drama Life, Above All, which made the Best Foreign Language Feature shortlist at the last Academy Awards (but did not make the final cut).  About a young woman who begins a journey in the wake of a destructive rumor that spreads through her community, critics have praised the film as a modest but quietly powerful drama with a tremendous lead performance from Khomotso Manyaka.  Due to one of the most frustrating Academy rules, the fact that the film missed out on a nomination last year makes it eligible for Oscars this year, but I doubt it’ll be the City of God-sized sleeper required for such a thing to happen.

Those looking for a…guiltier pleasure on the indie circuit might check out Tabloid, the latest documentary from the legendary Errol Morris.  In his most salacious film yet, the film follows Joyce McKinney and her meteoric rise to gossip rag queen when her romantic obsession leads to kidnapping, a manacled Mormon, and three-day sexual escapades.  Most critics acknowledge that this is arguably the shallowest doc of Morris’ career, but it’s also absorbing and luridly entertaining, and features a joy of a subject in the former Miss Wyoming.  Many have also noted that – in the wake of the News of the World/Rebekah Brooks scandal – the film is surprisingly topical.  That should help it gain some traction in the Best Documentary Feature race, which tends to favor more important subjects in that competition (think Inside Job vs. Exit Through the Gift Shop last year), but a win is still difficult to predict at this point.

Wow, four major releases this week, and they all received good reviews?!?  That’s a relief…let us know what you saw right here on the Awards Circuit!