Five films are new to Syracuse
by Mark Bialczak - Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Which films will Syracuse see next?

Your new offerings showed up on Wednesday this week because, well, that’s the way the studios do it, bowing to Thanksgiving. And there are a lot of them. You might want to parcel them out some instead of taking them all in with a movie-o-rama. The next few weeks are quiet, as far as openings go because, well, that’s the way studios do it, bowing to the Christmas run-up.

In any case, there are five newbies vying for the attention of Syracusans.

Judy Dench stars as “Philomena,” the story of a mother who’s determined to go anywhere the clues take her to find the son she was forced to give up decades ago, back in the days when young, unwed pregnant women were forced to live in a convent and then give up their babies. She travels from the United Kingdom to the United States, followed reluctantly by  recently laid-off political journalist Martin Sixsmith, played by Steve Coogan. Coogan also gets top writing credit, and Steven Frears directs the drama, which is sprinkled with humorous cross-cultural observations.

There is plenty to sing about in these days winding to Christmas, and “Black Nativity” makes sure of that. Director Kasi Lemmons wrote the screenplay, updated from the 1960s work of Langston Hughes. It’s the tale of a teenager who’s sent by his single mom in Baltimore to spend the holidays in New York City with  previously estranged family. Morgan Whitaker and Angela Bassett star as religiously devoted grandparents, Jennifer Hudson plays the mom and Jacob Latimore portrays the confused teen. He meets up with a thug (Tyrese Gibson) and follows because he thinks that will allow him to make money to help his mom. Mary J. Blige plays a member of grandpa Rev. Cornell Cobbs’ faithful congregation.

“The Book Thief” is set in World War II Germany, where young girl Leisel is sent to live with kindly foster parents who teach her so much about life. Directed by Brian Percival and written by Michael Petroni from the novel by  Marcus Zusak, it’s a tense dynamic between good and evil.The trailer shows touching work by young actress Sophie Nelisse as Leisel learns to read … and help new guardians played by Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson harbor the Nazis fugitive Max, played by Ben Schnetzer. The story is narrated by Death. How’s that for tension?

Sylvester Stallone wrote the screenplay for “Homefront,” which he based on the novel by Chuck Logan. No surprise, then, that this is an action drama about a guy who just can’t help pushing back. James Statham plays a DEA officer who moves to rural Louisiana after breaking up a major motorcycle ring of bad guys. He’d like to mind his own business, but this is a Stallone creation. James Franco plays a meth kingpin, and Winona Rider portrays a woman under his spell.

Disney comes through with some animated holiday fare: “Frozen.” The smart family-minded company this time has conjured a land of eternal winter and sends off a girl named Anna to rescue her sister, who’s trapped in the cold, cold place (not Syracuse). Kristin Bell is the voice of Anna, aided by the vocal acting of Idina Menzel as trapped sister Elsa and Jonathon Groff as Anna’s partner in adventure, Kristoff.

Box office report

The cash register take for the weekend of Nov. 23 might as well list only “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” The sequel starring the battling Jennifer Lawrence grossed a stunning $158 million in its opening weekend, according to boxofficemojo.com. Strong start, you think?

Two holdover films managed to crack the $10 million mark for the weekend. “Thor: The Dark World” stood at No. 1, with its gross of $14.1 million putting it at an overall mark of $167.9 million. “The Best Man Holiday” took No. 3, with a weekend haul of $12.4 million, raising it to $50.3 million overall.

The other opener of note, “Delivery Man,” rode Vince Vaughn’s kindly new dad gene to a fourth-place showing, with a weekend gross of $7.9 million.

 

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