Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Movie Glut

Desolation of Smaug, Peter Jackson's fifth foray into Middle Earth led the North American box office over the past weekend beating out the overly promoted sequel to Anchorman, which came in at the lower end of expectations. At least it did better than extinct on arrival Walking with Dinosaurs. In limited release, it was mixed fortunes as Spike Jonze's non-traditional love story Her, bolstered by its awards buzz, debut solidly, while Asghar Farhadi's The Past, recently  snubbed by the Academy's foreign language branch, had less the desirable results. All of these films and so much more are banking that people will come out in droves this upcoming Christmas week.

In terms of new releases, distributors thought it best to dump a whole bunch of films on Christmas Day. The most anticipated of these for cinephiles like myself would be Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Due to its delay coming out of the gates, it hasn't lit up the usual award precursors, but from everything I've been hearing it's not exactly a cuddly film. Probably a bit more tailored for general audiences is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty directed and starring Ben Stiller. The beautifully edited commercials and visually entrancing posters for this film feature grand adventures for its day-dreaming protagonist which should appeal to a broad audience or at least that's the hope. For those needing a bit more testosterone to their holidays, it's practically a smorgasbord with samurai action film 47 Ronin, sports comedy Grudge Match, and military film Lone Survivor (uh... spoiler alert?) all debuting. Ralph Fiennes' Charles Dickens film The Invisible Woman and the Justin Bieber documentary Believe are also coming out tomorrow. And yes, that's hopefully the first time Dickens and Bieber have appeared in the same sentence.

The competition doesn't end there, however, as there are plenty of holdovers appealing to families and/or Oscars enthusiasts that should do much business. Disney's animated hit Frozen should do extremely well this week coming off a weekend where it ranked third overall and already hitting the $200 million milestone today. Fellow November release, Catching Fire grossing over $370 million already, is still in the mix as well as recent release Saving Mr. Banks starring Emma Thompson as Mary Poppins' creator P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney himself. American Hustle leads the Oscar-y holdovers after a successful expansion this past weekend where it ended up just behind Frozen. With a super starry cast and great reviews, it should do well in the next couple of months no matter what happens this week. Along with American Hustle and Her, other Oscar-y films looking for more people to watch them this week included Inside Llewyn Davis, Philomena, and Nebraska.

Finally, there's the long-awaited August: Osage County starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. It was supposed to come out on Christmas, but it has since been pushed back to Friday the 27th. Did they see all of the competition above and decide to play it safe or perhaps it's a sign that the studio is slowly cutting its losses after the seemingly cool critical and awards reception the film has had to date. Also getting very little awards buzz relative to expectations is Jason Reitman's Labor Day starring Kate Winslet, which won't really open until next month save for a one-week Oscar qualifying run this Friday. For my part, as a Streep and Winslet fan I'll definitely see their films whenever they come out, but since it won't be on Christmas I'll need to decide which of the other films I'm going to watch. I'm leaning towards Walter Mitty to see with my parents then possibly Her, American Hustle, and/or Wolf of Wall Street just for me. So many choices! What will you do?

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