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.
This week of “dump month” January is in many respects, much more promising than last week. But again, most of what fills out our list this week will be indie or foreign affairs, because when you’re dealing with domestic studio pictures, there’s not a lot of leg to stand on in January. Still, even among bigger releases, this week is vastly superior, with a potentially rewarding family film and an A-list director coming back from a long hiatus. Couple those with a few foreign films that should spark interest, and a refreshing and well-received indie, and this week just may have you fooled whether on we are indeed still in the month of January.
#5 – Human Capital (Limited)
By way of Italy comes Human Capital, an ensemble drama that’s both a character study and allegorical look at capitalism and greed. It’s been compared (favorably or unfavorably, depending on your position) to Paul Haggis’ polarizing Oscar winner Crash, the ensemble film set in L.A. that sometimes dealt with its themes using a meat cleaver as opposed to a scalpel. Still, that 2004 film had some profound and affecting cinematic moments that even today are hard to forget. The story lines in Human Capital don’t promise to be as disconnected, however, since the film follows only two families, one of privileged high society, and the other of a struggling middle-class. After somebody is run off their bike by a car on Christmas Eve, we’re provided with the events and relationships of these two families leading up to that fateful act, which may explain who and what caused the tragedy. Ensemble films are rarely a sure thing, and they have a tendency to over-compensate for the limited screen time of each respective character with some often heavy-handed moments and thematics, but when they work, they can be deeply affecting (Short Cuts, Magnolia, Amores Perros), and Human Capital has gotten enough early praise for the film to warrant a viewing.
#4 – Gangs of Wasseypur (Limited)
Where are the dance numbers? The lush and opulent set pieces that are so pretty to look at? The sweet, charming romance between the male and female leads? The music? Well, if you haven’t already surmised, this isn’t that type of ‘Bollywood’ film. Gangs of Wasseypur is cut from a very different cloth than the type of Indian cinema many of us may be used to watching. But that might be what makes it so refreshing. It’s violent, cynical, harsh, and jaded. It’s stripped of any type of idealism, and it probably offers some sort of societal critique of its culture and country. It’s also very, very long, with a running time of five, yes, five and a half hours. But the film has been critically lauded in India since it premiered in 2012, to the point of legend. That was some time back, so it finally getting a theatrical release here in the States can be considered something of an event for those who follow Indian Cinema. And at 5 and a half hours, it is an event indeed – but one that everybody has claimed is very well worth it.
#3 – Appropriate Behavior (Limited)
First time writer and director Desiree Akhavan bursts onto the scene with Appropriate Behavior, which she also stars in. Drawing similarities ranging from Woody Allen to Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture, the film is a New York set, coming-of-age story about a Persian woman struggling to come to terms with her life, her relationships, and explain her sexuality to her parents. It premiered at last year’s Sundance, where the film was met with a warm and enthusiastic reception. The early reviews have been similarly positive, and Desiree is poised to be a fresh new female voice in comedy, the same way the aforementioned Dunham became years prior with her indie debut feature.
#2 – Blackhat
Michael Mann directs this cyber-thriller after taking a nearly six year long hiatus following 2009’s Public Enemies. Although never considered a particularly prolific director, the six year gap is the longest of Mann’s career, and many of us are glad to just see him back in theaters after so long. With Blackhat, the director deals with a modern form of terrorism and warfare, telling the story of a career hacker (played by Chris Hemsworth), pardoned by the CIA in return for capturing a menacing global terrorist. The film retains much of the realism and visual style that Mann is known for. If directors like Tarantino have been completely averse to digital filmmaking, directors like Mann are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Always one to keep up with the newest technological tools, the current topic of cyber-terrorism is one that should be of great interest to Mann. It also comes at a relevant time in Hollywood, with Sony still recovering from its cyber-hack that occurred late last year. Blackhat hasn’t been met with the best early reviews, but for some perspective, neither did Mann’s 2006 film, Miami Vice, a movie which many Mann followers swear by.
#1 – Paddington
Originally scheduled to be a December release, Paddington ended up finding its way into a January slot. And for those who follow release trends, a film that initially receives a contentious December release date and then gets pushed back to the barren January-March zone is a film that the studio shows very little confidence in. Couple that with the fact that Paddington had to deal with a major casting change during post-production – the voice of Paddington, originally Colin Firth, ended up being replaced by Ben Whishaw – and all signs point to a disaster of a family film. Well, that hasn’t exactly been the case. Paddington saw its initial release in the United Kingdom go smashingly well, and the film can already be considered quite the success overseas. Now with its American release looming, and reviews being nothing short of excellent, it appears that January will provide us with what is perhaps going to be the biggest hit of the month.
The rest of this weekend’s releases include:
Match – (Limited)
Still Life – (Limited)
The Wedding Ringer – (Limited)
Vice – (Limited)
Three Night Stand – (Limited)