On this highly congested mid-January weekend, the widest release is actually an expansion. Warner Bros. is pushing its record-setting four-screen success ‘American Sniper’ up to more than 3,200 screens. Can any of the new nationwide debuts defeat Clint Eastwood’s acclaimed true story of modern warfare? I doubt it.
Looking at the new titles, their screen counts and their stars, this is an extremely weird weekend for the newcomers. Surprisingly, the only movie hitting more than 3,000 screens is a Weinstein/Dimension kids’ flick that has received minimal publicity. Live-action ‘Paddington‘ brings to life (through CGI) the popular storybook bear who leaves Peru in search of a home in London. Of course, PG shenanigans ensue. Hugh Bonneville, Nicole Kidman, Sally Hawkins, Peter Capaldi and Jim Broadbent co-star, while Michael Gambon, Imelda Stauton and Ben Whishaw lend their voices.
The second-widest release is a wedding comedy that rips off ‘I Love You, Man‘. With a very late-starting marketing campaign, ‘The Wedding Ringer‘ is a test vehicle for what might be Josh Gad’s leading man career. Starring alongside Kevin Hart, Gad plays a friendless guy who can’t find a best man for his wedding. The answer to his problem lies with a secret business that supplies best-men-for-hire specifically for these scenarios, which is where Hart comes in. Once again, shenanigans ensue, but this time of the R-rated variety.
Oddly, the most-advertised new movie is getting the smallest release. With constantly-running TV spots that try to remind us that Michael Mann made hits like ‘Collateral‘ and ‘Heat‘ (as opposed to more recent crap like ‘Miami Vice‘ and ‘Public Enemies‘), ‘Blackhat‘ stars Chris Hemsworth as a convicted super-hacker who gets released to help track down a murderous hacker terrorist before he can strike again and potentially collapse the global economy. I haven’t seen ‘Paddington’ nor ‘The Wedding Ringer’, but I can guarantee you that either has to be worlds better than ‘Blackhat’, which is Mann’s worst film to date.
Coming hot off the success of a Golden Globe win for Best Actress is ‘Still Alice‘. Julianne Moore stars in this moving film as a brilliant linguistics professor who discovers that she has a genetically passed-down form of Alzheimer’s. This heartbreaking portrayal of an intelligent and humble woman’s mind deteriorating is hard to watch, but very worthwhile. Co-starring Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart and Kate Bosworth, Sony Pictures Classics is releasing ‘Still Alice’ on a small number of screens.