1. Unbroken (Universal, 3,131 Theaters, 137 Minutes, Rated PG-13 for war violence including intense sequences of brutality, and for brief language): Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Angelina Jolie’s blatant Oscar grab.
Don’t believe me? Let me count the Oscar grabbing tropes. Set in the 1940s (Ding) and based on the true story (Ding) of Louis Zamperini, the film details his life, first as an Olympian (Ding) then fighting in World War II (Ding) where his plane crashes at sea, causing him to struggle to stay alive for 47 days (Ding) after which he is rescued by the Japanese and tortured in a prisoner of war camp (Ding).
This isn’t just one Oscar bait film, it’s six Oscar bait films rolled into one. It is also torture porn in the guise of historical drama. I doubt Jolie has the sensitivity as a director to rise above that to make a compelling film.
2. The Gambler (Paramount, 2,448 Theaters, 111 Minutes, Rated R for language throughout, and for some sexuality/nudity): For a refreshing change, we have a film that doesn’t have obvious Oscar aspirations. I’m sure they’d love some, but any film that casts Mark Wahlberg as a lit professor probably doesn’t expect to have its name announced on Oscar night.
The film is a remake of the 1974 James Caan vehicle of the same name, and tells the story of a man, deep in debt to a loan shark who is making one last, desperate play to get free.
This is written by The Departed‘s William Monahan, who one an Oscar for telling that story of desperate men negotiating seedy underworlds, so this might be a nice alternative for you.
3. Into The Woods (Disney, 2,440 Theaters, 124 Minutes, Rated PG for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material.): And then we have this. A star-studded musical, directed by someone who directed a musical to an Oscar before. Should be a no-brainer this will be part of the Oscar telecast, right. However, there are some bumps in the road.
First, many of the early ads downplayed the musical aspects of the film to such a point that fans of the play wondered if the producers got rid of the music altogether.
Next, fans of the Sondheim stage musical know that it is a rather adult take on the Brothers Grimm stories. However, if you watch the Disney Channel as much as my daughter forces me to, you will believe that this is a joyous, kid-friendly song and dance film. This means one of two things. It means that either Disney is marketing the adult-themed film to kids just to fill seats, which is somewhat evil, or it massively toned down the adult elements which might alienate the core audience of the musical.
That adds up to a risky marketing plan. Let’s see if it affects the grosses.
4. Big Eyes (The Weinstein Company, 1,307 Theaters, 105 Minutes, Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language): It’s been 20 years since Tim Burton did a biopic on an artist living on the fringe of pop culture. But that film was Ed Wood, and it was fantastic. Since this film is also written by the same people who wrote that film, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, I’m hoping th
This film details a 1950s artist that was just a weird as Ed Wood, but far more successful. Walter Keane created a pop culture sensation with his “big eyed” paintings of small children. However, it turned out that the paintings were actually done by his wife, Margaret. When she desired to assert her true role in making the paintings, it started a war between the two that ended in court.
It a story wilder and wackier than that of Ed Wood. I hope this film is just as good.