Theatrical Releases

January 11, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

This is the last of the dead Fridays for theatrical releases. There are only two wide releases this week and one limited title expanding to everywhere. There are still a lot of movies out there from the pre-Christmas period that viewers have not yet seen, which explains why attendance has been high the last few weekends. If the field had to rely on new releases to draw audiences, there would be a lot of empty auditoriums. Next week, which happens to be the three-day MLK Weekend, represents the end of the drought with no fewer than four significant releases and one re-release.

Note: Last week, I referenced a movie called Rogue that was originally scheduled to open today. It's an Aussie monster movie from the director of the effective little thriller Wolf Creek. For reasons known only to the U.S. distributor, Dimension Films, the release was pulled. Since no new date has been announced, that likely means it won't open for a long time or will go directly to video. It's a shame because those who have seen it say it's surprisingly good and I could have sunk my teeth into a crocodile movie this weekend.

The Bucket List is expanding its reach from a handful of theaters to an armful of them this weekend. It's my semi-reluctant Pick of the Week. This overly sentimental film isn't great cinema but it tugs at the heartstrings at just the right times and gives Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman opportunities to do The Jack and Morgan Show. There's nothing wrong with it and I gave it a recommendation (three stars) in the review I wrote a few weeks ago, but it's not the kind of thing that will get people rushing to the theaters.

When it comes to this week's Box Office Champion, I'm going to pick one of the two new titles, and it's not the one by Uwe Boll. First Sunday has a lot of heart and provides some solid laughs. In fact, it's not entirely unlike The Bucket List in the way it mixes humor and drama and, had it not been for a sloppy ending, First Sunday might have been the Pick of the Week. But it should have enough drawing power to finally knock National Treasure 2 from the top spot. Then again, there's always the chance that a dark horse like Juno could sneak in and nothing would make me happier. I love it when something unforecast happens.

The other new release is the cumbersomely titled In the King's Name: A Dungeon Siege Tale. It's another Uwe Boll movie based on a computer game. Actually, considering that Boll is reputed to be the most inept director since Ed Wood (an argument I don't subscribe to, by the way – there are worse filmmakers out there), this is actually watchable. It's strictly for die-hard fantasy fans and does pretty much the same things that The Lord of the Rings did better. Since Boll placed this in PG-13 territory, there's no female flesh to ogle. The film is in a lot of theaters but will have trouble making the week's Top 10 earners.

Next week: a monster movie, a romantic comedy, a tale of vaginal teeth, a new one from Woody Allen, and something starring Woody's ex. All that... and it's possible the Pick of the Week will be a re-release.