With awards season in full swing and most of America still dealing with its collective holiday hangover, this final weekend of 2006 offers moviegoers a rare chance to catch up on the movies they may have missed.
The Beyoncé blockbuster "Dreamgirls" continues to expand with impressive numbers, as does Clint Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima" and Peter O'Toole's buzz-worthy performance in "Venus." Meanwhile, critically lauded flicks like "The Pursuit of Happyness," "Babel" and "The Good German" are hanging around long enough to dangle their goods in front of potential voters.
A clear blockbuster juggernaut seems unlikely to emerge this weekend, with new entries including the Santa slasher flick "Black Christmas," the creepily cheap-looking animated movie "Arthur and the Invisibles" and the below-the-radar Clive Owen sci-fi drama "Children of Men." The new movies coupled with "Happyness" and "Rocky Balboa" seem like the only real competition for returning champion Ben Stiller and the high-concept comedy "Night at the Museum."
Does anybody want to see a Christmas movie a week after they've opened their presents? That seems to be the biggest question facing "Black Christmas," which opened to decent if unspectacular money December 25. Stars Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg and Mary Elizabeth Winstead have speculated that moviegoers might be so sick of the shopping, carolers and congested parking lots that they'll want to see a movie about a guy who kills people with candy canes; the studio, no doubt, is thinking the same way.
Director Luc Besson ("The Professional") returns to America with "Invisibles." A combination of live-action and animation tells the story of a boy following his grandfather's ancient clues, unlocking a world of mysterious little people who help him battle real-estate developers foreclosing on his family home. Featuring the unlikely voice cast of Mia Farrow, Robert De Niro, Snoop Dogg, Rob Corddry and Madonna, the film is based on the best-selling children's book "Arthur and the Minimoys." The French cartoon seems unlikely to make "Happy Feet"-type money on these shores with its unpolished animation style that might haunt the nightmares of children and adults alike for weeks to come.
"Children of Men" has "Sin City" star Clive Owen living in a futuristic society where the human race is on the verge of extinction. With the citizens of England unable to reproduce and a dictator-like warden brought in to maintain order, a woman discovers that she is pregnant with what could be the first child born in 27 years. Co-starring Julianne Moore and Michael Caine, this thinking man's sci-fi flick is the latest effort from versatile director Alfonso Cuarón ("Y Tu Mamá También," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban") and has received mostly positive buzz.
Finally, there's the matter of "Pan's Labyrinth," a gorgeous film that is about as hard to categorize as they come. Mixing awe-inspiring fantasy sequences with horror brutal enough to make "Hostel" look like an Olsen twins movie, "Labyrinth" is the latest effort from "Hellboy" director Guillermo del Toro. The flick, which recently received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, tells the story of a young girl living in fascist Spain in 1944. During her torturous days, she witnesses the horrors of mankind, while night brings escape to the underground realm where she is a beloved princess. The film is opening in limited release with a national rollout to follow.
The Predictions: Stop trying to redeem those iTunes gift cards for a minute, and instead take a look at who might take home the box-office crown this weekend. Once again, it's time for our esteemed prognosticators to peer into their crystal balls for the final time in 2006. And with the score of their weekly showdown tied at 4-4, this week's predictions are hotter than popcorn butter.
What's the #1 flick? And how much will it rake in?
» Larry Carroll, MTV News writer: "Night at the Museum" ($23 million)
"I can see 'Museum' running away with another weekend based on the good buzz. Look for Stiller to ring in the new year with a celebration louder than anyone else's."
» Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor: "Dreamgirls" ($25 million)
"I'm going out on a limb on this one, but why not? I'm still licking my wounds from overestimating 'Night at the Museum' last week. 'Dreamgirls' is playing on a fraction of the screens of its competitors, but its positive buzz is just about deafening. I'm looking for this to be a big upset. Am I just dreaming? We'll see."
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