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Limited Releases are Going Somewhere

December 23rd, 2010

It's a bit of a mess this week for limited releases, with some that opened yesterday, some that open tomorrow, and even one opening on Christmas. Most of them do have something in common: they are aiming for Awards Season glory. Most are not earning the kind of reviews normally associated with success during award Awards Season, or success in limited release in general, but perhaps we will have a surprise on our hands. There is one film, The Illusionist, that is an unqualified hit with critics, while there are a couple, Barney's Version and Somewhere, that are earning good reviews, but not great ones.

Barney's Version - Reviews
After its Oscar-qualifying run last week, this film opens in limited release in Canada on Friday. Its overall reviews are not as strong as I would like to see, but Paul Giamatti, who plays the titular Barney, has earned praise (and a Golden Globe nomination) for his performance. If he can grab an Oscar nod as well, this film could be a reasonable hit in limited release, but it will likely have to wait till the home market to find a sizable audience. Barney's Version opens on Friday in select theaters in Canada before expanding wide in its native market in January.

Country Strong - Reviews
Garrett Hedlund plays a singer-songwriter who teams up with a former country star, Gwyneth Paltrow. It also stars Tim McGraw as her husband / manager and Leighton Meester as an up-and-coming singer. For a while this has been considered an Awards Season hopeful, but one look at its reviews and you know that's not going to happen. In fact, it's reviews are so bad that I have a hard time believing its planed wide release will happen. Country Strong opened on Wednesday in two theaters, one in Los Angeles and the other in Tennessee, which is of course the capital of country music.

If You Are The One 2 - No Reviews
A Chinese film starring You Ge, who is also in Sacrifice and Let the Bullets Fly, two monster hits currently playing in China, and Shu Qi, who is probably best known as the package in The Transporter. If You Are The One 2 opens tomorrow, but with no reviews and almost no web presence (it doesn't even have a Wikipedia page) it will likely struggle to find an audience here.

The Illusionist - Reviews
The best-reviewed limited release of the week and practically a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination for Best Feature-Length Animated Film. It helps that it is the only significant cell animated film coming out this year, and that it was made by the same people who made The Triplets of Belleville. I think that's the kind of run this film should be looking at: it should earn some significant measure of mainstream success, but it will never play truly wide. The Illusionist opens on Christmas Day at the Paris Theatre in New York City.

Nenette - Reviews
I biopic about Nenette, a famous orangutan from the Jardin des Plantes Exotiques zoo in Paris. There's no people presented as subjects in the movie, but we occasionally hear tourists and zookeepers talk about Nenette and the other orangutans. It's a minimalist approach that has divided critics with some complaining that even at just 70-minutes long, it overstays its welcome. (It was originally planned as a short film.) Nenette opened on Wednesday at the Film Forum in New York City.

Somewhere - Reviews
Arguably the highest-profile limited release of the week, Somewhere stars Stephen Dorff as a "hard-living" actor whose life is turned upside down when he has to take care of his pre-teen daughter, played by Elle Fanning. It's directed by Sofia Coppola, so it has been considered an Oscar hopeful for a while, but its reviews are a little soft for that. In fact, they are a little soft for success in limited release. Somewhere open yesterday in seven theaters in major cities nationwide (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, etc.).


Filed under: Limited Releases, Barney's Version, Somewhere, Country Strong, Fei Cheng Wu Rao 2, Nenette