Opening Today: 15 January 2010: A Guide to New Release Films

This weekend is not a packed as last weekend. There are only three wide and four limited releases. Fortunately, some of them promise to be doozys.

Opening Wide:


Book of Eli
: 47% Rotten Tomatoes, 52 Metacritic, IMDB: If the worst thing the reviews can say is that Book of Eli is a bit too ambitious and stretches too far in trying to do something different, I see no reason to avoid this film if you were interested in it. It looks like a solid action film.

Lovely Bones: 36% Rotten Tomatoes, 42 Metacritic, 6.9/10 IMDB: The thing I've read again and again in reviews is that Peter Jackson never manages to pull all the elements together in this film. Characters disappear with no explanation for long stretches of time only to pop back in as if the last [x] minutes of the film never happened. The balance was going to be tricky in this film, as the main character is a girl narrating the story of her family's grief from heaven. The people who love this film really love this film, though I've seen very few who actively dislike the film. I'm still curious about it.

Spy Next Door: 6% Rotten Tomatoes, 32 Metacritic, IMDB: It's exactly what you would expect: a not very good family film with a name actor to try and capitalize on the void of family entertainment in the midst of awards season.

Limited Release:

44 Inch Chest: 48% Rotten Tomatoes, 48 Metacritic, 6.2/10 IMDB: The reviews I've gone through seem to suggest that the film doesn't quite find the right balance between action and character exploration. I know there's an audience for this style of British underground crime film, I'm just not in it.

Carmel: Rotten Tomatoes, 5.5/10 IMDB: This is an NY MOMA only release for one week only. Catch it if you can.

Fish Tank: 86% Rotten Tomaotes, 79 Metacritic, 7.7/10 IMDB: This feels like a classic case of awards season cold feet. Fish Tank has great reviews and strong showings at international festivals, yet it is dumped in the third weekend of January outside the eligibility period for any American awards recognizing 2009. It's unlikely to be remembered by next November when the awards circuit starts up again. I've seen it favorably compared to An Education, in that some claim this film approaches similar issues with equally good performances.

The Last Station: 71% Rotten Tomatoes, 74 Metacritic, 7.3/10 IMDB: It's an awards season biopic of Tolstoy. The attention seems to be going to Helen Mirren for what's described as a "tour de force performance." That can mean it's genuinely a fantastic and moving performance, or an exercise in over the top histrionics made bearable by a talented performer.

Have a great weekend!