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Weekend Forecast for November 16-18, 2007

By Reagen Sulewski

November 16, 2007

Smile for the camera!

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Studios are trying hard to roll out their big fall films in advance of Thanksgiving, but the noisy failure of a couple of high profile films last weekend put a damper on the potential of that weekend's bonanza. This weekend's releases aren't helping matters either.

The future of computer animation, or at least what Robert Zemeckis hopes is the future of computer animation, gets previewed this weekend with the debut of Beowulf. An adaptation of the Old English legend, bane of literature students everywhere, into photo-realistic animation, it's the first attempt at making an animated action film solely for older audiences since Final Fantasy in 2001, which took the world by storm and changed cinema forev... oh, right.

Zemeckis is no stranger to this medium, having brought The Polar Express to the big screen in this format three years ago, with that ultra-creepy Tom Hanks. That was a huge hit, so he's decided to try again with ultra-creepy Angelina Jolie. Okay, so Ray Winstone is the lead character, but no one's heard of him anyway. Winstone voices the legendary warrior Beowulf, who is tasked to kill the beast Grendel, along with his mother (where Jolie comes in). It's an epic in the literal sense of the word, and one of the oldest recorded tales of English literature.

Much has been made of the digital effects and the fact that most of the characters are near perfect recreations of the actors that are voicing them. This also includes a lot of hype about virtual Angelina Jolie nudity, which is sort of sad, considering the mountains of porn out there, and that so many of you probably haven't rented Gia (go rent it. Trust me). I suppose to be fair, this Jolie is only slightly more fake than the one in Tomb Raider. The pursuit of photo-realism is kind of this film's downfall, as it simply isn't perfected to the point where it's not distracting, especially in some of the action scenes we've been presented, which have a distinct videogame feel to them.




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This film likely would be in a lot of trouble, save for a 3-D IMAX version, which is reportedly outstanding and breathtaking. Reviews are also stronger than expected, though they're mostly directed towards the visual elements of the film. It's still going to struggle to impress at the box office, and we should be looking at about $19 million on the weekend.

Almost as reliant on visual effects is Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, an unwieldy yet fun to say title. Written and directed by Stranger Than Fiction scribe Zach Helm, it stars Natalie Portman as a woman who inherits a magical and sentient toy store from its original owner, the Wonka-esque Magorium, who is played by Dustin Hoffman. But when he leaves the store and a corporate influence tries to sneak in, it starts to misbehave in unpredictable ways, causing chaos and threatening the wonder of the store.

An art director's dream, this film seems to have an aggressive cuteness that might be a bit much to take, though for kids (whom it seems to be pitched at), it might just be perfect. Reviews are pretty savage, with many critics particularly singling out Hoffman as a low point. The bright and shiny visual design should attract some audiences, but ultimately this is probably going to be an off-putting movie to most audiences. Give it $11 million on the weekend.


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