Fresh off a wide(r) release and 10 Oscar nominations, Slumdog Millionaire seemed positioned perfectly for the backlash that goes hand-in-hand with having front-runner status. But did anyone expect it to happen so soon? This week, stories splashed all over the Internet claiming the child actors in the film didn’t receive adequate compensation for their performances and were still living in complete squalor in the slums of Mumbai. Uh-oh! Not to worry, says director Danny Boyle, who countered by saying trust funds have been set up for their future schooling, so long as they make it that far while living next to open sewers. Controversy aside, here in the States, Slumdog Millionaire is an unabashed success and well on its way towards grossing $100 million dollars; expect it to once again place in the top five this weekend. The dark month that is January finally comes to a close with three new films hitting the marketplace, all certain to make you long for the halcyon days of February. Here’s a handy guide to the weekend releases.
What’s the story: Luc Besson sighting! The fabulous French director of such films as The Professional and The Fifth Element only co-wrote Taken–which looks like a PG-13 marriage of the Bourne movies and Hostel–but that could be good enough. Liam Neeson stars as a former C.I.A. operative who tracks down the people who kidnapped his daughter (former Lost castaway Maggie Grace) and sold her into sexual slavery. To call the reviews muted would be a compliment, but we can’t say we’re that opposed to the idea of watching Mr. Neeson kick some major ass for two hours. Even with the Super Bowl looming on Sunday night, expect Taken to be the testosterone-fueled hit of the weekend.
Who should see it: Sayid Jarrah.
New in Town
What’s the story: New in Town is the quintessential January movie. It’s a star vehicle (in this case, the plucky Renee Zellweger gets the honors) wrapped in the familiar trappings of a well-worn genre (fish-out-of-water romantic comedy), and it will most certainly be forgotten about by the time the calendar hits March. In the film, Ms. Zellweger travels to Minnesota for work, only to find mismatched onscreen love with the ever charming Harry Connick Jr. Expect more snow than sparks.
Who should see it: Senator Al Franken.
What’s the story: A teenage girl returns home after a stint in a mental hospital to reunite with her sister, father and his new (wicked) fiancée, but her recovery is hampered by the presence of a ghost. Yawn. 2009 is only 30 days old and we’re already tired of horror movies. You’d be forgiven for thinking that The Uninvited came out three weeks ago … but that cheap horror movie was actually called The Unborn. This film, a remake of the South Korean horror film A Tale of Two Sisters, stars Angelina Jolie look-alike Emily Browning (Lemony Snicket’s An Unfortunate Series of Events) and the rapturous Elizabeth Banks, a wire hanger away from being the worst mother this side of Joan Crawford.
Who should see it: Gluttons for punishment.