Weekend Openings (September 30-October 2)

As we wave goodbye to September, the awards season just keeps heating up.  A lot of interesting releases this weekend, both wide and limited, some of which could be serious Oscar contenders:

First up in wide release is the dramedy 50/50, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young man who is diagnosed with cancer.  Reviews have praised this film as an intelligent, sincere and surprisingly funny movie that rises far above and beyond your typical “Disease of the Week” Lifetime-esque melodramas.  I’m starting to believe that it may actually be a serious threat for a Best Original Screenplay nomination.  Box office-wise…eh, I don’t know.  Despite support from critics, cancer isn’t exactly an audience-friendly subject.  I’m thinking it’ll hit somewhere around the $8-13 million mark by Sunday.Also in theaters is the faith-based drama Courageous, though it’s technically more of a semi-wide release.  As far as I can tell it’s about four police officers who learn how to be good fathers from Jesus or something.  Look, I don’t want to come off as patronizing towards Christians or anything.  I respect all (benign) religions and beliefs, but can we all agree that these “holier-than-thou” films from Sherwood Pictures are just freaking horrible?  For a film that supposedly expounds on the importance of faith, the producers don’t seem to have much of it in their movie; there were no critics’ screenings as far as I could tell.  Still, Evangelical Christians should be enough of an audience for a slightly more than $10 million take.

Dream House is opening this weekend as well, though if you saw that goddamn trailer you know its big plot twist, so why bother?  I don’t even have the discourtesy to go further than simply saying that Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz star as a married couple who move to a quaint little house that holds a ghastly secret.  Just like Courageous, there has not been a single official early review of the film at the time of publishing, which is a bad sign.  Maybe it’ll be lucky and score somewhere in the ballpark of $10 million.  Maybe.

Finally, the adorable Anna Faris stars in What’s Your Number?, which, as Daniel O’Brien of Cracked.com astutely noted, looks more like a parody of a romantic comedy.  Whatever it is, critics aren’t laughing.  Online buzz has been minimal and Faris is far from a reliable draw.  If this movie earns anything north of $8 million this weekend, I might have to shoot myself out of lack of faith in humanity.

The limited circuit is packed this weekend, starting with Margaret, Kenneth Lonergan’s long awaited follow-up to his marvelous debut feature You Can Count on Me.  Anna Paquin stars as a teenage girl wracked with guilt over her involvement in a bus accident.  We’ve covered the numerous delays that this film has suffered in the past since its original release date of 2007, and it looks like Margaret is finally ready to be seen by the general public.  Reviews have been sharply divided so far.  Some are praising it as an intelligent and ambitious character study; others are dismissing it as an unwieldy mess.  Funny enough, Clayton actually saw an early cut of the film a long time ago and, well, hated it, but editing is an amazing force in cinema…

Those looking to point and laugh at an easy target might want to check out Sarah Palin – You Betcha!, muckraker Nick Broomfield’s documentary about the “real” former Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential candidate.  Quite frankly, the last thing I would ever want to do is watch America’s Favorite Hockey Mom for 90 minutes, and its critical reaction has only solidified that stance.  You want to see a film that jeers at an utterly irrelevant “political” figure by telling you stuff that everyone knows about her already?  Be my guest.

One film that I have been highly anticipating this year is Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter, starring Michael Shannon as a humble family man who starts having terrifying visions of an apocalyptic storm.  This film has been near-universally acclaimed as a hypnotic psychological thriller with an amazing performance from Shannon at its center.  Call it intuition, call it insanity, but I have long believed that he will be our next Academy Award winner for Best Actor.  He strikes me as having a similar status in Hollywood to other Best Actor champs like Colin Firth, Forest Whitaker and Philip Seymour Hoffman: not a household name, but well-known enough to not be classified an under-the-radar character actor, and has garnered a lot of respect from his peers.  He’s a very “big” performer, which Oscar tends to favor, and we’ve known that they love him ever since his surprise nomination for Revolutionary Road.  Now he’s in a film that has already earned some major citations and critical acclaim.  And the kicker is that he plays a guy with – drumroll please – (possible) mental illness!  Now, it is a small indie and the Best Actor race is incredibly stacked this year.  I admit he’s not a slam dunk.  But if he pulls way ahead in the precursors and his name is announced on January 24th, just remember, I called it first.*

Finally, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil arrives with perhaps the most hilarious premise of the year, but like Dream House is also somewhat ruined by a spoilerific trailer.  If critics are to be believed, we’re looking at a hilarious and surprisingly clever horror/comedy classic in the making.  Oscars?  Not a chance, but a cult following is almost guaranteed.

Obviously, we’ve got an abundance of intriguing new films this weekend.  We’ll do our best to review all of them on The Awards Circuit soon, but until then tell us your theatergoing experiences on the forum!

 
* But if his Oscar prospects end up going nowhere, feel free to mock me relentlessly.