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.
As any cinephile surely knows, these are the weeks that make you simultaneously love and hate the fall season. First on the positive side – so many good films. There is some serious promise this week, and a loaded line-up of festival and industry darlings makes us giddy just thinking about it. But, as is often the case during this time of the year, so many of the best films are limited releases, making it difficult for those of us outside of New York or LA to find the time and location where our preferred film may be playing. But while some of us may have to wait, others will enjoy the spoils of a hearty bouquet of cinema. And for those who have to sit back patiently, there is, well…one worthy prospect that we can see along with everybody else, and it starts off our list…
#5 – Fury
Brad Pitt is in the Nazi killing business. And cousin, business is A-boomin’. Or at least it must be for Mr. Pitt, who once again finds himself gunning for Germans five years after Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. With Fury, however, audiences can expect a less sardonic Pitt than Lt. Aldo Raine and his scalp collecting bunch. This time Pitt commands a Sherman tank and leads a group of men, once again, behind enemy lines. Out-manned, out-gunned, and facing grim odds, the crew take on the Germans in a mission no more harebrained than, say…assassinating Hitler and his top officials at a movie premiere. With writer/director David Ayer (End of Watch) at the helm, the action is likely to be grittier, and the tone likely bleaker, but for those eager for more Nazi-killing, Pitt is once again here to appease.
#4 – Listen Up Philip (New York)
Elisabeth Moss and Jason Scwhartzman once again dip their feet in the indie pool with Alex Ross Perry’s Listen Up Philip. Schwartzman plays a promising writer both unwilling and uninterested in promoting his second novel for publishers. With his relationship with his girlfriend (Moss) crumbling, he takes up his idol’s offer and retreats to a summer home as refuge. With a relatively unknown director in Perry, the only reference point we have to go on are two things: the movie’s positive buzz on the festival circuit, and a very cool trailer detailing a Woody Allen-esque brand of filmmaking. The movie is also said to spotlight New York in some very bitter and cynical ways, which seems like the perfect backdrop for the often self-absorbed world of writers and their ilk.
#3 – The Tale of Princess Kaguya (New York, L.A., Toronto)
It is not an exaggeration to say that Studio Ghibli has become as beloved an animation studio as Disney’s Pixar, growing an ardent fan base with each new, imaginative, and fantastic release. The uncertainty of Ghibli’s future has many of those same fans concerned, and with good reason. Ghibli, with its hand drawn animation and willingness to take bold creative leaps that a more commercial studio like Pixar simply cannot, is vital to the world of animation. Nothing is more indicative of this than their most recent release (and penultimate release before their hiatus), The Tale of Princess Kaguya. The animation is textured and often minimalist, but always striking work by Isao Takahata, the animator/writer/director best known for breaking animation fans collective hearts with his stirring 1988 drama, Grave of the Fireflies. Based on an old Japanese folktale, it tells the story a tiny girl found in a shining stalk of bamboo, who grows rapidly into a beautiful young woman, enchanting all around her, including the Emperor of Japan.
#2 – Dear White People (Limited)
In a better world, freshman director Justin Simien’s Dear White People wouldn’t be characterized as “controversial.” Instead, it would simply be described as a biting satire about race relations in America. Alas, that description – along with its attention-grabbing title – is enough to divide and polarize people, all of whom have ideas about what the film is and isn’t trying to say. That discussion and debate should be welcomed, but not at the expense of enjoying what appears to be the film’s main draw: a sharp comedy about “post-racial” (and I say that facetiously) America with the intent for us all to just take a step back and laugh at ourselves and how we deal with our prejudices. As the trailer shows, Simien seems to convey this pointedly and humorously, and those of us eager to laugh at it all will be hoping Dear White People succeeds at what appears to be its main intention: comedy.
#1 – Birdman (Limited)
While most of the talk has been about whether or not Michael Keaton is playing a fictionalized version of himself (a worthy question), the rest of the Keaton fans are just glad he’s back. Sure, the actor never truly went anywhere. But it can’t be argued that he has been working mostly on the fringes of Hollywood, with just an occasional bit part in some bigger films (The Other Guys, Toy Story 3) up until 2014 rolled along and saw him appear in Robocop, Need for Speed and now, Birdman. For Keaton, an actor who never really had anything to prove if you look back on his varying roles and films, Birdman is a movie that once again gives Keaton the chance to just…play. The actor already proved years ago with inspired turns in Beetlejuice, Pacific Heights, Desperate Measures, and Multiplicity that he can run the gamut from silly to psychotic, and with Birdman it appears he has the chance to do both. The talent around him is nothing to scoff at either, with Emma Stone, Zack Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, and Edward Norton filling out the cast and writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel) giving us the illusion of a long, cinematic single take. Detailing the story of a washed up actor known mainly for his superhero character, who ultimately decides to reinvent himself through Broadway, Birdman could end up being the movie event of the year if the film’s execution matches its ambition.
The rest of this weekend’s releases:
Diplomacy (New York)
The Best of Me
The Book of Life
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (Limited)
Camp X-Ray (New York, L.A.)
The Culture High (Limited)
Young Ones (Limited)