Weekend Openings (November 11-13)

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Okay, so in perhaps my worst Weekend Openings yet, I predicted that Brett “rehearsing is for fags” Ratner’s Tower Heist would be “the guaranteed hit of the weekend.”  Looks like my crystal ball was broken last week, or more likely I just foolishly underestimated the power of an animated cat with a Spanish accent.  Not this time.  Puss in Boots will probably hold on to the top spot a third time this Veteran’s Day weekend (though with my luck it’ll tumble now).

The most successful new release will most likely be Immortals.  Or, at least it had better be, because dear god America will be lost forever if the other one grosses more.  Declaring war on humanity, King Hyperion searches for a weapon that would free the Titans and take revenge on the Gods who imprisoned them.  The Gods select as humanity’s champion Theseus to stop the king of Crete.  The only interesting thing about this sword-and-sandals epic to me is that it’s from the visually creative Tarsem Singh, who at least will guarantee some great eye candy.  Critics are once again dazzled by his impressionistic aesthetic but are less enthused about the film’s shameless style-over-substance.  I’m going to predict an $18-23 million opening, and if Immortals ends up on the high side of that, it could be looking at Oscar nominations for Art Direction, Sound, Costume Design and/or Visual Effects.

The other new wide release is *sigh*, Jack and Jill, starring Adam Sandler as a guy who dreads the annual Thanksgiving visit from his “wacky” sister played by…ADAM SANDLER!  Oh Adam, you zany funnyman!  What the fuck…you remember when people thought Sandler had reinvented himself with Punch-Drunk Love?  That was just under a decade ago and now he’s giving us perhaps the most painful-looking comedy of the year.  Since this was my reaction to the film’s trailer, you can bet I’ll be skipping it, and I hope others do as well, but there’s something in the pit of my stomach that tells me…$16-21 million anyway.

While it’s more of a semi-wide release and has been in theaters since Wednesday, I felt it would be more appropriate to devote time to J. Edgar here.  Predicted by seemingly every pundit (sans myself!) as one of the frontrunners of this year’s Oscar race, Clint Eastwood’s biopic of the controversial first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has stumbled out of the gate, receiving a mixed-to-negative overall critical reception.  The Awards Circuit is split as well; John declared the film an “American masterpiece” while Mike asserted it as one of the year’s “most staggering disappointments.”  Obviously critics are only part of a film’s awards prospects, but with such numerous disapproving reviews to its name, there’s little doubt that J. Edgar can no longer be seriously discussed as a contender for Best Picture.  Because he is the most widely-praised element of it and because he was seen throughout the whole year as a fait accompli, Leonardo DiCaprio still has a fighting chance at being nominated for Best Actor but is now vulnerable from being overtaken by the likes of Brad Pitt or Jean Dujardin for the win.  Techs are also a possibility but far from certain.  As for box office, both DiCaprio and Eastwood are still names that can sell tickets, and the film’s high anticipation should put it at least above $12 million by Sunday.

In actual limited release is the theatrical debut of Lars von Trier’s divisive (have his films ever been anything else?) apocalyptic drama Melancholia, about the emotional toll that the imminent end of the world brings upon a clinically depressed woman and her anxiety-ridden sister.  As with J. Edgar, we at The Awards Circuit had differing reactions to this one: I thought it was utterly fascinating while Joey found it a bore.  Strangely, critics (even a few LvT haters) seem to be more admiring than with his previous works.  That probably won’t boost the chances for Mr. “I am a Nazi” to get that elusive Best Director nomination he so deserved eleven years ago, but then there’s Kirsten Dunst.  Winner of the Best Actress award at Cannes and receiving nearly every “best in show” mention in reviews, there are a few – including me – who are seeing her as a major contender for an Oscar nomination.  It’s not a sure bet; after all, Björk, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Nicole Kidman gave equally praised performances in past von Trier films and all missed out on nods.  Still, Dunst shouldn’t be counted out of the equation just yet.

Also on the limited circuit is the Brazilian entry for Best Foreign Language Film: Elite Squad: The Enemy Within.  A sequel to The Elite Squad, José Padilha returns to the life of now-Lt. Colonel Roberto Nascimento and his horrifying realization that his allies are just as rotten as the criminals he fights on the streets.  Already its native country’s most successful film ever, Enemy Within is also enjoying ecstatic reviews.  Critics are hailing this as a masterfully executed, white-knuckle crime thriller with complexity and conviction, as well as a huge improvement from its predecessor.  I can’t imagine such a violent polemical film winning an Oscar, but the category’s executive committee could propel it to a nomination.

Werner Herzog unleashes his newest documentary Into The Abyss, about a triple homicide in Conroe, Texas and an exploration of the morality of the death penalty through those affected by the crime and the punishment.  John was a huge fan of this one at TIFF, calling it the “best documentary of his career”…strong words about the man who made the best documentary of the previous decade.  The positive sentiment is shared by many other critics as well, which could net Herzog his first Academy Award.

Finally, Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan takes a stab at the director’s chair with London Boulevard, starring Colin Farrell as an ex-con who falls in love with a mysterious actress played by Keira Knightley, only to have their romance threatened by a vicious crime boss.  If the critics are right, perhaps Monahan should stick to screenplays; most reviews complain that the film’s plot is too disjointed and overstuffed, and the direction is a pale imitation of other, better auteurs.

Wow, what difference one week makes!  Please let us know what you saw and what you thoughts of these new releases on the forum, as we always look forward to gauging the opinions of our readers.