Wow.  Just…wow.  What a brutal weekend!  I mean, no harm on my end; as far as I’m concerned, American audiences couldn’t have picked a more perfect wide release to ignore than New Year’s Eve.  But it looks like Hollywood is looking to strike back with some major new films.  It doesn’t take a genius to deduce what the likely hit is going to be…

Everyone’s favorite detective returns to the big screen in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, this time possibly meeting his match in the insidious Professor Moriarty.  The first installment was a huge hit – not sure why, I thought it was terrible – and online buzz plus its sizable marketing push plus the presence of box office draw Robert Downey, Jr. looks to exceed that sum even if critics are less generous in their reviews.  I’m pegging the film busts the business’ slump with a $61-66 million debut frame.  The first film “earned” two Academy Award nominations, and if this one is as popular then it could re-score Art Direction and Original Score nods…maybe other crafts as well.

There’s also Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, because fuck good taste and originality, right?  So in this one, the little CGI animals go on a cruise and get stranded on an island and have to survive on pop culture jokes and lazy animation.  Look, this thing could have been panned by every single critic in the world (as opposed to just almost every single critic in the world) and parents looking to distract their kids for a while would still flock to making this a sizable profit…or will they?  Kung Fu Panda 2 and Happy Feet 2 were financial disappointments, so maybe families are sick of animated sequels?  I’m thinking there will be enough of an audience for $20-25 million this weekend.

While technically a new release last week, Young Adult is expanding to 1,000 theaters, so general audiences will be able to witness Charlize Theron’s acclaimed performance as an all-around terrible person and boost its box office by about $5-7 million.

In limited release, kinda, is Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, making its limited debut on about 400 IMAX screens to gain the lead on the rush of big films hitting next week.  When Ethan Hunt’s team is implicated in a terrorist attack, the IMF is shut down and Ghost Protocol is initiated.  With no backup or allies, Hunt and his team must go off the grid to clear their name and stop a global conspiracy.  If that sounds like a totally ridiculous premise that is merely an excuse for high octane action sequences, then you might be in luck, as most critics say that the film delivers the latter in spades, resulting in the most purely entertaining action flick of the year.  The buzz for this one is strong and should give its IMAX run a good $13-18 million result.

Also in limited release is Roman Polanski’s adaptation of the satirical play God of Carnage, shortened to the much less appropriate and creative title Carnage.  In the wake of a schoolyard fight, the parents of the two boys meet to sort out the matter and, well, carnage ensues.  Most reviews are calling this a disappointing, uncooked chamber drama with unconvincing observations about human behavior somewhat elevated by Jodie Foster and Christoph Waltz’s entertaining performances.  We at The Awards Circuit never pegged this one as a major Oscar contender, and while Foster and Winslet both garnered Golden Globe nods, I would not take that as any sign that this is really going anywhere.

The awards season is heating up, but there are still some major releases before the year is out.  Check ’em out and tell us all about them!