Hitting Screens, Week of Dec. 19, 2016

The upcoming holiday weekend is generally a big one for movie openings, but there is a complication this year. Christmas Day falls at the end of the weekend, so there will be less time for families to search out entertainment to round out their festivities. In addition, studios are not willing to schedule films to go up against the second week of Rogue One, which proved expectations with a “massive” debut this week.

But studios need to get movies in to theater to qualify for the Oscars, so several will open in limited runs in the upcoming week.

9780735216686_c42dbBucking the trend, one adaptation debuts across the country on Christmas Day, Fences, Denzel Washington’s film version of August Wilson’s 1983 Pulitzer Prize and Tony winning play. Washington directs and co-stars with Viola Davis, reprising their roles from a Broadway revival of the play six years ago, for which both won Tony Awards.

The Guardian writes “This film is conceived as a showcase for its performers, and, as that, it is immaculate … Would Wilson be pleased? A black director, extraordinary performances, as faithful an adaptation as you can imagine. He’d be ecstatic.”

Vanity Fair offers an alternative title for the film: “Please Hurry Up and Give Viola Davis an Oscar.”

A tie-in came out on Dec. 6, Fences (Movie tie-in), August Wilson (PRH/Plume).

Six other film adaptations open in limited release this week:

mv5bodyxmdc0ntg2nl5bml5banbnxkftztgwnjy0ndyzote-_v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_Patriots Day, the drama recounting the Boston Marathon bombing. Directed by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, Lone Survivor) it stars Mark Wahlberg, J. K. Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon and Michelle Monaghan.

It is based on the nonfiction title, Boston Strong: A City’s Triumph over Tragedy by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge (UP New England/ForeEdge), which traces the events of the bombing and the citywide manhunt to find the terrorists.

The Hollywood Reporter says the film is “Kinetic, well cast and technically impressive — but not as stirring as it might have been.”

Variety calls it “An intense, jittery re-creation … [a] genuinely exciting megaplex entertainment, informed by extensive research, featuring bona fide movie stars, and staged with equal degrees of professionalism and respect.”

The film opens in limited release on December 21 with a wide release on January 13, 2017. There is no tie-in.

9780763692155_4718cA Monster Calls was originally scheduled for release on October 21, but the the film adaptation of the children’s fantasy by Patrick Ness moved to a holiday opening due to what Deadline called “a complete nightmare in regards to competition … the pic’s new date gives it ample time to breathe and spur word-of-mouth during the year-end holidays and into 2017.”

Thus far, reviews are mixed for this fantasy-reality drama about a boy coping with his mother’s illness and his own troubles. The Hollywood Reporter calls it a “sensitive and beautifully made lesson in the limits and power of storytelling … The fact that not every terrible thing can be remedied or appropriately punished is a tough lesson even for adults to learn, but A Monster Calls helps find the sense in it.”

Variety, however, was less impressed, calling it “an incredibly small and intimate gothic fable … [that is] all bark and no bite.”

There are two tie-ins:

A Monster Calls: Special Collectors’ Edition (Movie Tie-in): Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness, Jim Kay, (Candlewick, October 4, 2016).

A Monster Calls: A Novel (Movie Tie-in): Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness, Jim Kay (Candlewick, August 2, 2016, Trade Paperback).

The film opens on December 23, followed by a wide release on January 6.

9780720614480_052afSilence opens on Dec. 23, with a wide release coming later in January (the specific date has yet to be announced).

Directed by Martin Scorsese, it is an adaptation of the novel by Shusaku Endo,  first published in 1966. It is a book that Scorsese writes in the introduction to the tie-in,  Silence, (Peter Owen Publishers, Dec. 1; trade paperback, Macmillan/Picador Modern Classics), he has “reread countless times,” one that has given him “a kind of sustenance” that he has “found in only a very few works of art.”

Starring Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, and Adam Driver, it is set in about a Portuguese Jesuit priest who persecuted along with other Christians in Japan in the 17th C.

Variety says it is a “challenging, yet beautiful spiritual journey.” While they also call it a “a remarkable achievement,” they warn “Though undeniably gorgeous, it is punishingly long, frequently boring, and woefully unengaging at some of its most critical moments. It is too subdued for Scorsese-philes, too violent for the most devout, and too abstruse for the great many moviegoers who such an expensive undertaking hopes to attract.”

SlashFilm has a round-up of additional reviews.

9780062363602_4650aHidden Figures opens on Christmas Day in some theaters, with a nationwide release on Jan. 6.

It is one of the hot films of the season, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe as a group of African American women who worked at NASA on the mission that sent John Glenn into space in 1962. Director Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent) was so taken with the script that he dropped out of the running to direct a Spiderman movie in favor of this one.

Variety says it is a “thoroughly satisfying … Feel-good drama” that is “As brash, bright, and broad as Hollywood studio movies come.”

Tie-in: Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, Margot Lee Shetterly (HC/William Morrow Paperbacks; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample).

9780062662422_066ffLive by Night opens on December 25, followed by a national release on January 13, 2017 and is Ben Affleck’s first time in the director’s chair since his award-winning Argo. Not only does he direct and star, he wrote the screenplay, an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s Live by Night (Harper/ Morrow; Harperluxe; HarperAudio).

Zoe Saldana, Sienna Miller, Chris Cooper, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina and Elle Fanning also feature in this period gangster film set during the Prohibition era.

Variety reports that Affleck told reporters at an early screening “that the idea for him was blending a throwback vibe with modern energy. And that’s fitting: In Lehane’s novel, Affleck has found a gangster yarn akin to the ’30s and ’40s genre pictures that inspired him, but one with a fresh face.”

Live by Night follows The Given Day, which was the author’s first departure into historical crime. A third book in the series, World Gone By, was published last year.

There are multiple tie-ins: The mass market will arrive on Dec. 27, while the trade paperback (both HarperCollins/Morrow) came out on Dec. 6.

9780525434252_8a7abThe Spanish language film Julieta is based on three linked short stories from Alice Munro’s collection Runaway (“Chance,” “Soon,” and “Silence”). It opens in limited release on Dec. 21st.

Written and directed by Academy Award-winner Pedro Almodóvar, it stars Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte along with Daniel Grao, Inma Cuesta, Darío Grandinetti, Michelle Jenner, and Rossy de Palma.

The Guardian gave it five stars, calling it “Almodóvar’s best film in a decade” and describing it as “a sumptuous and heartbreaking study of the viral nature of guilt, the mystery of memory and the often unendurable power of love.”

American critics were less impressed. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “A tie-me-downer of a pastiche” while Variety says it is “far from this reformed renegade’s strongest or most entertaining work.”

Tie-in: Julieta (Movie Tie-in Edition): Three Stories That Inspired the Movie, Alice Munro (PRH/Vintage; OverDrive Sample).

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