Theatrical Releases

January 04, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

It's a sad week for movies. The only new release is One Missed Call. Not only is the film pretty bad, but it's generating almost no buzz. Will anyone other than the ten people who joined me this afternoon see it? I can't recommend it even to die-hard horror fans and it won't come close to capturing this week's box office crown. That will almost certainly go once again to National Treasure 2 by default. But the total gross for the second rate Raiders should be down significantly from last week. This isn't movie-going season.

There are two films previously in limited release that will be getting wider exposure. (And Juno will be doubling its number of theaters from 1000 to 2000.) The first is The Orphanage, which could be described as the anti-One Missed Call. Both are ghost stories but The Orphanage does almost everything well that One Missed Call does poorly. If you feel a yearning to see a ghost story this weekend, there's no question which is the better choice, although it would be unfair not to mention that The Orphanage comes with subtitles along with its genuine scares. And it doesn't have Ray Wise in an inexplicable walk-on role. (If you can't find it this week, wait till next week when it expands onto 750 screens.)

My pick of the week goes to Paul Thomas Anderson's ambitious There Will Be Blood. It's flawed and overlong but it is compelling and features a great lead performance from Daniel Day Lewis. Many critics are overlooking the movie's obvious flaws and are rushing into "overpraise" mode. There Will Be Blood is something of an acquired taste and is definitely not mainstream. Nevertheless, if you have 2 1/2 hours, like Anderson's previous work, and don't mind a movie that's more about character than plot, this may fill an afternoon or evening, and it's unlikely you'll be bored.

That's it for this week's releases - not a full or impressive roster, to be sure. Next week isn't much better with a handful of new releases and one currently limited offering going wide. Two of the releases are of the "don't let critics see them" school of dump-and-run. (In the Name of the King, Rogue) I'll catch one on Friday but I can't promise to see both; my constitution may not be up to it. Right now, my gut is to avoid the Uwe Boll title (In the Name of the King). I have seen enough of his stuff to know there's not much hope for this one, although it would be interesting to actually review one of Boll's masterpieces (something I have yet to do).

Meanwhile, I have some more reading to do about the impact of Warner Brother's defection to the Blu-Ray camp so I can include that in Monday's discussion. I feel bad that my nice HD-DVD player Christmas gift may soon be gathering dust... More about that next week, although my prediction about the format war has not changed. We'll know the winner before the end of 2008 (in fact, we know it now), but it won't be a reality until the first half of 2009.