Welcome to the Weekend Release Roundup, where we highlight what we think are the most interesting movies to hit theaters this weekend.
Going to the movies isn’t cheap, so we’re here to help you sort through your choices.
It seems that every week has some sort of overall theme – or storyline, rather – that comes to embody the movies being released. Some weeks are rooted in appreciation of independent film, while others highlight the mega budget fare that we all love seeing on the big screen. With that in mind, this week’s storyline is undoubtedly one of honoring the leading women of the industry, whether it’s an appreciation of two awards heavyweights going head to head (Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon) or rather just interesting roles and films that celebrate stories with women at the center. Sometimes it’s all too obvious just how unforgiving this business can be to the other half, so we’re glad to have a week this female-centric.
#5 – Life Partners (Limited)
The first film in our ode to womanhood is, appropriately, Life Partners. Starring Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs – both having made a name for themselves on television with Gossip Girl and Community, respectively – the story centers on two best friends, one of whom is gay, and the trials and tests of their relationship when the straight one gets in a serious relationship that leads to an engagement. The basic story isn’t breaking any new ground, and making one of the leads a lesbian may come off as gimmicky if there’s no substantive commentary behind her character and their relationship together, but the trailer does seem to allude to some endearing moments of friendship between the two. If the chemistry and writing click, the film could be a worthy addition to the growing list of LGBT films that have come out in the past few years and successfully offered some new perspectives and viewpoints on topics ranging from love (The Kids Are All Right), to family (The Skeleton Twins), to friendship . Director Susanna Fogel, who also has a television background with Chasing Life, is making her feature directing debut on Life Partners.
#4 – Comet (Limited)
Comet is our lone exception to the female oriented theme of this week’s releases, as the film chronicles the love affair between a young couple as they navigate their on-again off-again relationship between parallel universes. That’s right, parallel universes in a romance. The ambition of the story alone is enough to garner interest, as romances usually tend to adhere to more conservative stories and rely much more heavily on the chemistry and charm of their two leads. But when given a chance to get inventive, love stories have proven to be great, memorable tales (as films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Groundhog Day, and this year’s The One I Love have shown). But along with the ambitious plot comes a unique, stylistic visual aesthetic also not commonly found in your usual love story. The trailer boasts rich imagery filled with surreal environments, beautiful colors and lights, and fantastical worlds. Comet is directed by first timer Sam Esmail and stars Justin Long (Husk) and Emmy Rossum (Before I Disappear).
#3 – Wild (Limited)
Wild sees Hollywood sweetheart Reese Witherspoon shed her good-girl charm to play, among other things, a heroin using, unfaithful wife with a tendency for self-destructive behavior after the death of her mother. But there’s much more to the character, which is based off the true life of Cheryl Strayed, a woman who trekked over a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail and wrote a memoir about her journey. The trailer seems to show us every side of Strayed, warts and all, as she attempts to forgive her past misdeeds, overcome her grief, and work towards becoming a better person, all with the help and guidance of some friendly strangers along the way. The film seems to be one of introspection by way of nature and exploration, much in the vein of Sean Penn’s Into the Wild or Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, both of which – if we’re keeping score – nabbed nominations for their leading men. Expect more of the same for Reese Witherspoon. Wild is directed by Jean-Marc Valle (Dallas Buyers Club) and also stars Laura Dern (HBO’s Enlightenment).
#2 – Still Alice (Limited)
Also in the Best Actress race we have Julianne Moore, considered by most to be the favorite at this point. Bring up the topic “best actress to never win an Oscar” to a room of cinephiles and you’ll find Moore near the top of almost every list, and with good reason. Consistently putting out excellent, engaging performances, Moore has been one of those Hollywood constants that people just tend to overlook after a while because consistency, for better or worse, can be boring (see pre-Oscar Jeff Bridges) and Hollywood loves comebacks. Still Alice may finally be the movie that forces audiences to no longer ignore her talents. It details the story of a celebrated linguistics professor who begins to forget her words, thoughts, and work, only to find she is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. Moore is tasked with delivering a performance of a woman struggling to keep her world intact for as long as she can, but knowing that the disease she’s afflicted with will eventually consume her in ways that strip her of everything she’s worked for. While the mediocre unofficial trailer below doesn’t appear to do the film justice, there are moments peppered in that we imagine are searing and heartbreaking to watch. Still Alice is directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (The Last of Robin Hood) and also stars Kristen Stewart (Camp X-Ray), Kate Bosworth (Homefront), and Alec Baldwin (Blue Jasmine).
#1 – Zero Motivation (Limited)
It may come as a surprise that, given the feminist theme of this week, our definitive film comes by way of Israel, with Talya Lavie’s Zero Motivation. But as Ana Lily Amirpour proved a few weeks ago with her film, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, it shouldn’t. What female auteurs like Amirpour, Lavie, and Haifaa Al-Mansour (with last year’s Wadjda) have proven is that the women from the Middle East have a lot to say about what it is to be a woman in a society so seemingly different from ours, and they each tell their stories in impassioned, scary, or hilarious ways, giving us as an audience a complete range of tonality and perspective in how to see womanhood in their world. For Zero Motivation, the medicine is humor, as it recounts the story of a group of female Israeli soldiers who deal with the same banality and boredom many of us know all too well, as they spend their time on a remote desert base and try to make the days pass with hijinks and buffoonery. The trailer looks delightfully funny, the characters seem familiar and charming, and the situations seem hysterical, even set against a backdrop where most of us may not expect humor.
The rest of this weekend’s releases include:
Concerning Violence (Limited)
Dying of the Light (Limited)
By the Gun (Limited)
Murder of a Cat (Limited)
Lap Dance (Limited)
The Foxy Merkins (Limited)
She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (Limited)