Weekend Movies: The Decimation of the Competition

Even though last year’s installment of ‘The Hobbit’ got a mixed reception from both critics and fans, there’s little doubt that the second chapter in the trilogy – which hits IMAX, HFR, 3D and 2D screens this weekend – will walk away another box office winner.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug‘ kicks off shortly after ‘An Unexpected Journey‘ ended. Bilbo and company are much closer to their destination, but still have a pair of unwelcoming lands to pass through and a nasty pack of Orcs to steer clear of. For those left frustrated by the lack of dragons in ‘An Unexpected Journey’, ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ certainly delivers the fire-breathing goods.

I didn’t think another movie would open against ‘The Hobbit’, but Tyler Perry’s ‘A Madea Christmas‘ also hits more than 2,000 screens this weekend. I was oblivious to this until now because Tyler Perry’s movies are not screened for press in my region, or even advertised here. In this one, the cross-dressing character takes her antics to Small Town, USA for the holidays. Perry knows his audience, so his movies are typically very profitable – but I’m unsure how well it will function as counter-programming against ‘The Hobbit’.

By coincidence, one of the last three films starring the late Paul Walker opens less than two weeks after his tragic death. ‘Hours‘ tells the story of a family just before Hurricane Katrina makes landfall in New Orleans. When the mother passes away due to complications of her daughter’s premature birth, the father (Walker) is left to fight for the struggling infant’s life. With the storm raging and the electricity out, he has to go above and beyond to keep his daughter’s ventilator pumping. Sounds heavy, but filled with potential.

This weekend also gives us the limited release of two awards contenders. David O. Russell’s ‘American Hustle‘ just won Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) and Best Screenplay from the New York Film Critics Circle. With an opening title card that explains that some of the film is based on actual events, the complex and comedic ensemble drama is about a con man and woman forced to work with federal agents to expose a group of corrupt politicians in the ’70s. ‘American Hustle’ (which was previously titled ‘American Bullshit’) stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner and Robert De Niro. Expect Oscar nominations, and be sure to see it when it expands wide next week.

In ‘Saving Mr. Banks‘, Tom Hanks stars as the great Walt Disney. The film tells the story of Walt’s attempt to get the rights to adapt the ‘Mary Poppins’ book into a feature film. Emma Thompson stars as ‘Poppins’ author P.L. Travers, the curmudgeon who didn’t want to hand her book over to Disney. While ‘Hustle’ is definitely buzz-worthy, I haven’t heard many good things about ‘Mr. Banks’.

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