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Weekend Forecast for December 8-10, 2006

by Reagen Sulewski

December 8, 2006

Why are you laughing and humming the theme song from The Nanny?

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Now past the dead zone of the post-Thanksgiving weekend, studios are ready to roll out some of their late year potential tentpoles, including a couple of seasonally appropriate films and two that have their eyes on Oscar.

The Holiday is the big December offering for romantic comedies, starring Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Jack Black. Diaz and Winslet play recently jilted women, located in Los Angeles and London respectively, who trade houses to get our of their ruts. While there they each meet a potential new dude, with Diaz getting Law, and Winslet getting Black. One of these two is getting a raw deal, but I'm honestly not sure which.

There's nothing particularly remarkable about this film, which is basically designed to be inoffensive, cute and cuddly, sort of like Love Actually from a couple of years ago. The cast is appealing to that 24-50 demo, famous but not intimidatingly so, with only Black potentially striking a wrong note (though he seems quite toned down from his manic persona). In short, it's an entirely average looking romantic comedy with a decent premise. In a week with little to challenge it, it could take the top spot at the box office with about $16 million.

Blood Diamond takes on the controversial African diamond industry, following a particular diamond in war-torn Sierra Leone as it changes hands and endangers the lives of everyone it touches. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a South African mercenary who joins up with Djimon Hounsou, playing a diamond miner who has found a rare pink diamond that could give both of them their freedom, or lead both to their death. Jennifer Connelly is along as an American journalist investigating both the war and the diamond trade.

Directed by Edward Zwick (of Glory and The Last Samurai fame), Blood Diamond is essentially an action film with a social conscience, which aren't always phrases that go together well. The action has been downplayed in ads for the film, pressing up the dramatic angles, including a romance and Hounsou's quest to reunite with his family. Brutal on the diamond industry, it aims to be something akin to The Killing Fields or Hotel Rwanda in this respect, but you have to wonder how much Christmas shoppers are in the mood to be preached to.




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The film is positioning itself as an Oscar contender, and a nod from the NBR this week certainly helps those chances (if only a little). DiCaprio has seen his star rise again in the past few years after getting backtracked with Titanic. This year's The Departed proved to be one of his biggest hits, but we'll see how of that was due to him with the release of this film. Warner Bros., for its part, is not being incredibly confident with the film, opening it in just under 2,000 screens. I think this will be enough for about a $13 million opening weekend, though.

The movie with the most question marks this weekend is Apocalypto. First and foremost among them is its director, Mel Gibson, whose, oh, let's say "colorful" language earlier this year during the course of an arrest has made him a divisive figure. Next is its setting, in a pre-Columbian Mayan civilization, in the original Mayan language and with no name actors. Never let it be said that Gibson won't take a risk.


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