Alfonso Cuaron’s acclaimed intergalactic thriller Gravity is poised for a stellar opening weekend,with predictions running as high as a $40 million debut. That would amount to quite a few 3D glasses needing to be recycled. Given its heavy advance buzz (it’s currently trending 98% on Rotten Tomatoes), it seems the film’s plastic pileup is only fated to grow: Boasting a wonderful performance by Sandra Bullock, which has Academy Award pundits seeing Oscar (not to mention a charming turn by George Clooney, in which he plays George-Clooney-acting-charming-in-a-spacesuit), Gravity is already outpacing modern -effects posterchild Avatar in 3D pre-sales, with 91% of advanced tickets reserved for 3D viewings. In other words, expect this star vehicle to snuff the competition.
Looking to give Cuaron’s early Oscar contender a – pardon the phrasing – run for its considerable money, the Justin Timberlake/Ben Affleck vehicle Runner Runner also opens this weekend. Most critics have panned the action/suspense flick about gamblers acting shady, although our Maitland McDonagh is a bit more understanding. “Both Affleck and Timberlake have fought uphill battles to be taken seriously as actors,” she says, citing the difficulty many have encountered when they try to picture JT as the adult version of the boy who once matched denim outfits with Britney Spears, and when they attempt to look beyond Ben Affleck’s extraordinarily gifted face. However, “Runner Runner gives both room to show what they can do,” she concludes.
Parkland, boasting yet another all-star cast with turns by Billy Bob Thornton,
Paul Giamatti, Zac Efron, and Colin Hanks, is being released (in 217 theaters) 50 years and a little over a month to the day JFK was assassinated. Reviews of the feature, which takes place in the hospital where the president was rushed the afternoon of the shooting, have been mixed to negative. Even given its full talent roster, Parkland's box-office expectations are pretty grim.
More promising is the new feature starring the elder Hanks, Captain Phillips. The thriller based on the real-life captain and his harrowing encounter with a band of Somali pirates will have a sneak preview in 800 locations this Saturday, with a wide release scheduled for the following week.
Traveling to the world of smaller specialty releases, a pair of foreign dramas is slated for an American premiere. The French movie Concussion takes a frank look at a lesbian’s couple sexless marriage – and one partner’s risqué efforts to rebel.
Dramatic in a more over-the-top and epic way is the new Chinese film from director Jia Zhangke, A Touch of Sin, which, with its interconnected stories espousing a dour view of modern China, has been called by our Chris Barsanti “a sprawling tragicomedy” that amounts to an “exhilarating expose” on the country’s increasingly troubled state.
Metallica Through the Never will see a wider expansion this weekend, to 650 theaters. The documentary about the popular metal band had a solid opening weekend this past week, grossing$1.07 million from 305 Imax theaters.
In all, the nascent fall season is shaping up to be excitingly varied. However, it remains to be seen whether any of the above will have the popular appeal to match, let alone compete with, the Gravity juggernaut.