Repent, Ye Talking Fox! The Apocalypse is Nigh!
Welcome back to Movieline Attractions, your regular one-stop guide to everything new, noteworthy and/or cataclysmic at the box office. This week, a summer blockbuster comes to autumn, Wes Anderson makes his way to the coasts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman takes to the high seas. And then there's Precious, which will finally arrive in a theater near pretty much everybody. Lots to do! Let's get to it.
WHAT'S NEW: 2012 may be Hollywood's answer to troubled financial institutions deemed too big to fail -- a $200 million (plus marketing), two-and-a-half hour disaster epic that smashes any and all previous apocalypse-flick standards established at the movies. Sony caught a little flak for pushing it out of July to November, but this thing is really the proverbial elephant that can sit wherever it wants, and it's tracking as such. A domestic opening of $57 million should complement a global take pushing at least $85 million, and it should break $200 million total by the end of week two. Like the movie itself, not too shabby. (A review is forthcoming later this morning.)
The only other film opening in semi-wide release is Pirate Radio, the counterculture fable about an offshore rock-and-roll radio station serving (and subverting) '60s-era Great Britain. The cast (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh and more) and awareness of the film aren't bad, but the reviews sure are; it'll be lucky to breach $5 million on roughly 900 screens. Meanwhile, Precious is headed out to 160 or so new theaters of its own, with Lionsgate hoping it can snag another hot weekend of at least $30,000 per screen. Fox Searchlight will easily manage that with The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson's Roald Dahl adaptation opening on four screens in New York and Los Angeles before expanding in the weeks ahead.
Also opening: The sexy teen-awakening indie Dare, the ensemble melodramedy Women in Trouble, the inner-city entrepreneur doc Ten9Eight, the celebrity faith-exploration doc Oh My God, the anti-Semitism doc Defamation, the fractured Joseph Gordon-Levitt romantic thriller Uncertainty (theatrically in New York only, video-on-demand nationwide), and in Los Angeles only, the romcom Love Hurts, the British class-clash drama London River, and the documentary Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould.
THE BIG LOSER: There's not really enough opening for anything to get left too far behind, and even last week's dud Disney's A Christmas Carol shouldn't drop off too precipitously (holiday films rarely do between opening day and Christmas itself). So let's just say everyone's safe for now.
THE UNDERDOG: The Messenger really surprised the hell out of me a few months back. Ben Foster stars as Will Montgomery, a wounded Iraq War veteran assigned to casualty notification duty with hard-ass officer Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson). Each man has the requisite genre ghosts, but under rookie director Oren Moverman, Foster and Harrelson handle the material with grace, humor and taste. Samantha Morton co-stars as a war widow in whom Will takes an interest; their courtship culminates in a dazzling one-take mating ritual of sorts that perfectly capsulizes Moverman's contagious faith and confidence behind the camera. The only fortune this one will make is in word-of-mouth, but that's good enough for awards-season consideration -- which, with this group working at this level, is the least it deserves. (For more, check out our recent interviews with Harrelson and Morton.)
FOR SHUT-INS: New DVD releases this week include three different versions of Pixar's Up, the reviled Heigl/Butler romcom The Ugly Truth, something called the Mamma Mia! Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! More Gift Set, Ashton Kutcher's gigolo sex farce Spread, and complete-series sets of Hogan's Heroes and Justice League. Happy viewing!