Weekend Openings (May 20-22)

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The slate of new releases is dry as a tomb this week, folks.  What do I mean by that?  Well, take a look…

Will Jack Sparrow plunder moviegoers' wallets once again? The only new wide release this weekend is yet another seeming attempt to erase the original greatness of Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow.  See what I mean?  In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Sparrow and Barbossa search for the Great Mystical MacGuffin, cross paths with the infamous Blackbeard, and…whatever.  I don’t mean to be so lazily flip, but I can’t even sarcastically fake enthusiasm for a series that went on two (soon to be three) films too long.  Critics are also just as worn down by how tedious and nonsensical the series has become, grateful for this installment’s relatively short running time but still calling it a trying experience.  None of that will stop its inevitably huge box office take this weekend due to lack of competition and audiences being gluttons for punishment.  I’m pegging it to take $90-95 million, and that’s being conservative.

Is this finally Woody Allen's comeback? Hoping to cheer us up more in limited release is Woody Allen, of all people.  Midnight in Paris (no, not THAT Midnight in Paris) is a romantic comedy centering on “a young engaged couple forced to confront the illusion that a life different from their own is better.”  Sounds like typical Allen, but most critics seem to be taken by the film’s charm and whimsy, even some *groan* claiming it’s one of his strongest in a long time.  Personally, I’m very skeptical of critical reviews that call a new Woody Allen film “One of his best!”  This may sound arrogant, but I find it myopic when critics put one of his recent works on a pedestal.  Have these people forgotten Annie HallManhattanThe Purple Rose of CairoHannah and Her SistersAnother WomanCrimes and MisdemeanorsHusbands and Wives?  I’m not saying it’s impossible for the director to make another film of that quality…someday, but I’d have to be in an extremely generous mood to give any of his films made in the last ten years even a half-hearted recommendation, including the ones that received similar hyperbolic praise from critics.  He seems to have fallen into a rut of lackadaisical, half-baked travelogues that are at best pale shadows of what we all know he’s capable of (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) or at worst outright atrocities (Anything Else).  Look, I’m not kicking Midnight in Paris to the curb just yet.  I’d love to be pleasantly surprised and call it a very good or even great film that exceeded my expectations.  But after so many movies from him that aren’t even decent on their own terms – let alone relative to his filmography – I can’t help but be a little skeptical.  The Academy adores Allen, especially the screenplay division, so a prognosticator should never count out any well-received film from him when thinking of future Oscar players.  But I would also argue that the year is young, and there are plenty of other ambitious projects on the horizon, so a full-on Best Picture nomination is still unlikely at this point.

And that’s literally it for the new releases.  Seriously, there are no other notable films debuting wide or limited this weekend.  If neither of them interest you, or if you simply aren’t near a theater playing Midnight in Paris, it might be a good time to catch up on anything you missed from the last few weeks.  I’ve heard that Bridesmaids is pretty good…