Weekend Forecast for December 21-23, 2007 Part 1

By Reagen Sulewski

December 21, 2006

No, I don't want to make you squeal like a pig.

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Charlie Wilson's War marks the return of two of Hollywood's biggest stars to the screen after extended absences. Tom Hanks hasn't been in a film in the over a year and a half since the release of The Da Vinci Code, while Julia Roberts hasn't appeared in a live action film in nearly three.

Hanks stars as the titular Congressman, who in the late 70s was known as one of the biggest womanizers and partiers on Capitol Hill. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Wilson discovers that because of the unique set of committees he sits on, he has the ability to funnel money to Afghan Mujahedin to secretly fight the Soviet Empire. Wilson achieves this mainly through the fact that no one would believe he had the audacity or will to do so.

Directed by Mike Nichols and scripted by Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Wilson's War is a satirical take on governmental operation and foreign policy in the '70s and '80s, which, I know, just sounds like a lighthearted romp that's fun for the whole family. The tremendous pedigree of the film is its biggest asset, which also includes Roberts as the socialite who introduces Hanks's character to the cause, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as an embittered CIA agent who makes much of the behind the scene action happen.

Reviews are politely positive for the film, which has hopes to be a major Oscar contender. It's going to need the air of a winner to do so, though it needn't be a blockbuster. I see an opening weekend of $14 million, which might be enough.


What's Christmas without a musical? Nothing, according to studios lately, who've fully jumped on the bandwagon of giving audiences at least one all-singing all-dancing option each end-of-December. Sweeny Todd is no typical musical, however, with its subtitle, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Directed by Tim Burton, the film stars Johnny Depp as a barber framed for a crime and sent away by a judge who lusted after his wife. When he returns to London, he finds his wife dead and his daughter the ward of that same judge. Meeting up with a woman who serves "The Worst Meat Pies in London", he hatches a bloody plot for revenge. The Sound of Music, this ain't.

The original musical was written by Steven Sondheim and was a smash success, winning multiple Tony Awards and keeping the good people that make Karo syrup in business. With its macabre subject matter, it seems a natural subject for Burton, if he absolutely has to do a musical (apparently that's so). And of course he'd pick Depp and Helena Bonham Carter as his leads, as they are three grim peas in a pod.

Depp may be the hottest star in Hollywood right now, though he's relatively untested outside of his recent Pirates bonanza. If any actor could sell this film to multiplex audiences, it'd be him. Another big aspect in its favor is that it's the best-reviewed new film of the week, though the actual singing of the leads is apparently a bit suspect. Opening on just over 1,200 screens, Sweeny Todd will be a big hamstrung, but should still see about $10 million of business in its opening weekend.

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