Tonawanda News

Movies

December 10, 2009

MOVIES: Winter movie preview

The winter movie season is really two seasons in one.

Holiday movies are always a big deal at the box office. Outside of the typical blockbuster summer, now is usually the time for studios to unleash some of their big guns, both commercially and artistically — it is, after all, “awards season.”

But once Christmas passes by, the rest of the winter movie season often feels like the landscape: Cold and barren. Studios often treat January and February as a dumping ground, releasing films that, conceivably, couldn’t compete with the expected blockbusters.

But the rules may be changing. Is there a need for an “awards season” in an age of 10 Best Picture nominees? And even if there is a time for releasing Oscar contenders, will this holiday season really fit the bill?

This coming Friday brings us “Invictus,” which certainly sounds like a film that Oscar voters will like: A Clint Eastwood-directed sports drama dealing with race. Matt Damon stars as South Africa’s rugby captain after the end of apartheid. He connects with Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman), who hopes the team can become a new rallying point for the country.

Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” will also hit theaters this weekend. It’s a return to traditional cel-animation for the Mouse House, which used to have a monopoly on animated hits at the box office. We’ll see if Disney’s take on yet another classic tale will continue that tradition.

Next week, it’s the big one. Film fans have discussed James Cameron’s “Avatar” for many years now, and it’s almost here. Cameron waited until he had the technology to make the film — it features “photorealistic” special effects, and the film’s wide release will be in 3D. The movie’s exact budget is unknown, but a recent Wall Street Journal article estimated the cost could top $300 million. The plot almost seems irrelevant after all the hype, but it features aliens, and a human marine who goes undercover as one of the creatures during a war.

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