Motion-picture: Moana eyeing big release; Hidden Figures, Moonlight looking strong this Oscar season

November is yielding interesting results at the box office and awards season this year. We’ve got big releases like Moana raking in more dough for Disney. We’ve also got Oscar-potential movies like Moonlight, Hidden Figures, and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk all facing differing results in the awards race and/or box office. We’ve also got movies like Kidnap swapping release dates and Labyrinth announcing its cast for a famous murder case. For these stories and more, read on:

Box office: It may be a long halftime walk for Ang Lee this year. The director’s technological risk Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk opened it in fifth place at the box office this weekend, bringing in a measly $1 million. The picture is the first to be filmed at 120 frames per second – about four times more frames than a standard film. Reviews were not kind to Lee’s camera technique (or the story itself), saying the frame rate made the film look awkward and unnatural. The film is well below Lee’s previous release Life of Pi, which scored $22 million in its opening weekend and went on to earn $124 million in 2012.

It’s not all bad news, though. In its fifth week, Moonlight is just behind Billy Lynn – it drummed up $1.39 million from 650 theaters in its first weekend of wide release. Word of mouth will hopefully continue to spread for the film, as it has already proven to be a surprise hit in limited release. Starring Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali and directed by Barry Jenkins, the film follows the life of a young black man struggling to find his place in the world. Buzz surrounds Ali’s performance as a strong contender for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. 


Action: When Moana releases November 23, it looks like Disney will be saying “you’re welcome.” The soundtrack for the film released last week, featuring songs from Dwayne Johnson, Lin Manuel Miranda, Jordan Fisher and more. Reviews so far have been unanimously positive, citing the film’s subversion of Disney princess stereotypes. Moana herself will vehemently deny being a princess – but she still represents the first Polynesian female to lead an animated Disney movie. Having already out-earned all other years in 2016, box office predictions indicate Moana will be yet another huge hit for Disney.

Halle Berry’s Kidnap has been taken off its December 2 release slot. The action thriller, which stars Berry as a mom who will stop at nothing to rescue her kidnapped son, was bumped back to a March 10 release. It’s produced by Relativity Studios, which has been undergoing bankruptcy and law suits since last summer. Directed by Luis Prieto (Pusher), the film may have a lot riding on its box office performance.

Drama: A new trailer released for Hidden Figures, as if we needed more reason to get excited about it. The trailer features glimpses at the performances of Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer, all three of which are gathering Oscar buzz – Henson especially. Directed by Theodore Melfi, the film follows three black women serving as mathematicians for NASA during the space race. If you’re like me, you were already sold on the first trailer – can January 6 get here sooner?

Forest Whitaker and Neil Brown Jr. are heading to the Labyrinth. The two actors will star in the upcoming crime drama about the murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious BIG, alongside Johnny Depp. Whitaker (The Butler) will play a journalist tracking the case while Brown Jr. (Straight Outta Compton) will play a former detective accused of the murder. The film will be directed by Brad Furman, who previously directed The Infiltrator this year.

A 3-mintue clip for Amma Asante’s upcoming film A United Kingdom released. The film is based on the real-life interracial love story between an African prince Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) and a working class woman (Rosamund Pike) that took place in modern day Botswana. In the clip, we see some of the adversity the couple receives from Khama’s family back in 1947. Premiering at TIFF a few months ago, the film is Asante’s third directorial feature. The film will release domestically February 17, 2017.

Rosario Dawson has been cast to play women’s rights activist Donna Hylton in the upcoming biopic based on the biography A Little Piece of Light. The biography talks about Hylton’s early life, such as she moved from Jamaica to New York City after her mother sold her to an abusive couple. After being found guilty of involvement in a real estate agent’s murder, Hylton spent years in prison before becoming an activist when she was released. The film is currently looking for a female screenwriter and director for the project.

Comedy: It didn’t take long for Tyler Perry to decide his next project. His production company 34th Street Films will produce English and Spanish language adaptations of Miss Granny, a South Korean dramedy. The film has already been remade in six Asian languages, making the story “the world’s most adapted film.” Coming off of a success with Boo! A Madea Halloween, 34th Street Films is currently developing a script with CJ Entertainment. It is aiming for a 2018 release.

Documentary: Following a screening of documentary The 13th at the Museum of Tolerance, Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey held a discussion about the documentary and its political implications in America. “You come away from this film and you feel differently about the mass incarceration system in this country, and what justice and injustice looks like,” Winfrey said. DuVernay also said that a Donald Trump presidency will “worsen” the system, noting that Trump looks at private prisons as a “business.” DuVernay’s doc discussing racial bias in America’s justice system is available to stream on Netflix now.