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.
While last week’s trip to the movies was salvaged by a major headliner in David Fincher’s Gone Girl (no, smart-ass, it wasn’t the Nicolas Cage starrer Left Behind), indies are the theme this week. A slew of notable smaller films look to rescue what otherwise would be a barren October weekend at the movies, with the higher profile films opening this frame leaving a lot to be desired.
#5 – Automata (Limited)
Gabe Ibáñez’ apocalyptic sci-fi film benefits from a few key things: its desolate landscape and inventive, stripped-down visuals are an absolute draw, but it also smartly takes (or is inspired inspired) from sci-fi legend Isaac Asimov. Asimov, for those who don’t know, was the writer who could be heard rolling in his grave with the release of Alex Proyas’ adaptation of his I, Robot. Sci-fi geeks will quickly pick up on some very glaring similarities between this film and the 2004 Will Smith-led disaster. The trailer presents its Asimov-likeness pretty well overall, packaging this sci-fi film as the smart, thought-provoking type that would appeal to his fans (there’s even some District 9 similarities). Although reviews haven’t been kind, there is enough here to interest sci-fi heads. And with a decent, though somewhat “where-have-they-been?”, slew of names like Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith, Robert Forster, and Dylan McDermott headlining the cast, it could be worth a gander.
#4 – The Judge
Some time during the 90s, the courtroom drama started to get monotonous once audiences picked up on the redundancies and narrative tropes of that particular sub-genre. By the next decade, it seemed studios just stopped making them (seriously, if you compare the amount of 90’s courtroom dramas to 00’s ones, the contrast is stark). Still, every once in a while there is an attempt to make a new one (remember Gosling and Hopkins in Fracture?). Now it seems Robert Downey Jr. is trying the courtroom drama, by way of an inspirational man-discovers-what’s-really-important-in-life movie. Does it work? The reviews say no, and the trailer doesn’t help. It does indeed feel like a film that belongs in another decade (any takers on Billy Bob Thornton playing the opposing lawyer who’s rarely lost a case?), but the talent in front of the camera is something to be admired. Along with Downey and Thornton, you have Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, and Vincent D’Onofrio.
#3 – St. Vincent (Limited)
St. Vincent features an impressive list of actors (Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Howard) and one very unknown director (first-timer Ted Melfi) in a story about a boy who befriends his man-child neighbor and the bond that comes to form between the two. It’s all very About a Boy, which is in no way a criticism, and has the chance to be a real crowd pleaser. Murray is said to give a delightful performance and Melissa McCarthy is fortunately given the chance to play something beyond the bumbling blowhard she too often gets pigeonholed into portraying. Melfi, who never met Murray prior to casting him, is said to have contacted Murray for the role through his infamous 800 number, so there’s that as well.
#2 – Kill the Messenger (Limited)
For the political and/or historical enthusiasts out there, Kill the Messenger is appealing for the simple fact that it deals with an American scandal that is utterly fascinating and seldom explored in film. That scandal involves the CIA-backed Contras (infamous for their Iran/Contra scandal in the 80’s) who smuggled cocaine into the U.S. to later funnel the profits back to themselves, all under the watch and knowledge of the CIA and U.S. government. Kill the Messenger relays that story through the perspective of Gary Webb, the journalist who uncovered and publicized the scandal and dealt with government threats and retaliation due to his findings. The story itself reads as fiction, and if director Michael Cuesta and a cast of Jeremy Renner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Paz Vega, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Ray Liotta can deliver, then the film will be memorable.
#1 – Whiplash (Limited)
Whiplash is a film whose journey in theaters started way back in January, where it won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and captivated audiences with what are supposed to be brilliant performances from its two leads, Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. Since then, it has made its way through the festival circuit, picking up more buzz and praise with each screening. In many ways, there is a hype for this little indie from director Damien Chazelle as palpable as that of Gone Girl last week, even if that hype is targeted toward a different crowd. It’s no doubt however, that cinephiles who have been following the festival circuit are excited about this potential gem, and if the buzz rings true, Whiplash could find its momentum carrying it throughout the rest of the fall and into awards season.
The rest of this weekend’s releases:
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
The Canal (limited)
Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (limited)
The Devil’s Hand (limited)
I am Ali (limited)
Meet the Mormons (limited)
One Chance (limited)
The Overnighters (limited)
The Pact 2 (limited)
You’re Not You (limited)