It's another big holiday weekend with plenty of new releases to consider following your Thanksgiving feast this Thursday (and following your subsequent leftovers feasts through Sunday). In the same way that many Americans prefer alternatives to the traditional turkey and stuffing dinner on the day of gratitude, many moviegoers want something other than a studio tentpole release the day after Thanksgiving. Really, why would you want a popcorn movie when you're still full from the night before?
There are a couple of limited release options this week, including an important studio film getting a surprisingly soft opening, to appease such a film diet. Check these films out if you want something different as or additional to your main course this weekend:
"Me and Orson Welles"
What is is: Richard Linklater, director of "Dazed and Confused" and "School of Rock," returns with a fictionalized coming-of-age drama set during production of Orson Welles' famous 1937 version of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar." Zac Efron stars as a young actor dealing with the title character's difficult methods while also falling for a production assistant, played by Claire Danes.
Why you should be interested: It would be great if this was merely a chance for the "High School Musical" crowd to become curious about the legendary Welles, but the film is supposedly very good on its own too. Come for Efron and to see what Danes has been up to the last two years (personally, I'm also drawn in by British faves Eddie Marsan and Kelly Reilly) and stay for the reportedly excellent breakout performance from Christian McKay as the future director of "Citizen Kane."
How you can see it: "Me and Orson Welles" opens in a handful of theaters this Wednesday and will receive a limited expansion next week. Hopefully the film will be enough of a hit in limited release to encourage a wider release, but you can also show there's interest in it by contacting your local theater and the film's distributor, Cinemanx.
"The Privates Lives of Pippa Lee"
What it is: Romantic drama starring Robin Wright ("Forrest Gump") as a woman living with her much older husband (Alan Arkin) in a Connecticut retirement community and having an affair with a man her own age (Keanu Reeves). The title character is portrayed as a runaway teenager by "Gossip Girl" star Blake Lively, and the film's supporting cast includes Winona Ryder, Julianne Moore, Maria Bello and Monica Bellucci.
Why you should be interested: Filmmaker Rebecca Miller, who adapted the film from her own novel, makes "chick flicks" that are actually pretty great (see "Personal Velocity" and "The Ballad of Jack and Rose," the latter starring her husband, Daniel Day-Lewis). Of course, it's also hard to say no to an ensemble of such talented actresses as appear in the film (plus the terrific Arkin, and Reeves, who is fine enough in movies like this). It's especially nice to see Wright giving a stand out performance, too, now that she's ready to move out of ex Sean Penn's shadow and shine like she did in "The Princess Bride" 20 years ago.
How you can see it: A list of cinemas showing "Pippa Lee" beginning this week or December 11 can be found on the film's website, and unfortunately it looks like the release is limited to parts of California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, where the film was shot. Again, contact both your local cinema and the distributor, Screen Media Films, to find out if you can get the film shown in your area.
"The Princess and the Frog"
What it is: Disney's first traditionally animated (meaning 2-D, hand-drawn style) film in five years and its first to feature an African-American "princess," the film follows a New Orleans waitress (voiced by Anika Noni Rose) who is also transformed when she kisses a prince who'd been turned into a frog by a voodoo doctor. The jazz-filled musical also features the voices of John Goodman, Terrence Howard and Oprah Winfrey and was directed by John Musker and Ron Clements ("The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin").
Why you should be interested: Certainly you've missed the old style of Disney animated films, and this seems to have more in common with classics like "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty" and even the Disney renaissance films like "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast" than just being made with the traditional animation techniques. It looks magical and memorable, as Disney's films should.
How you can see it: NYC and LA audiences get "The Princess and the Frog" early, beginning Wednesday, but this is a big deal movie and so obviously Disney will be expanding to every nook of the country on December 11. No need to do any requesting for this one.