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 is a week chock-full of wild cards. Where with other weeks we could confidently deem some movies in or out of awards races, this week serves up some ambiguity in the awards season storyline. First, we have two directors (P.T. Anderson, Ridley Scott) who are usually sure bets to garner nominations for their films, but who are going to face uphill climbs this time around (for reasons we will later divulge). Then there’s Chris Rock, not really a fixture during this time of the year, but whose current film is said to be his finest work to date, and could potentially nab him some screenplay recognition. Awards talk aside, it’s a good week for movies. With a variety of sub-genres from Biblical epic to stoner detective to an outright comedy, we’re going to be treated to some new movie-going material.
#5 – The Captive
There are weeks where our number 5 choice is a legitimate worthwhile movie to catch, merely caught up in a week full of better movies, and yet…there are weeks where our number five is a shameful and dreaded default choice. The Captive is, sadly, more of the latter. Starring Ryan Reynolds in a role that simply seems to be a reminder that he’s still a working actor, The Captive follows a man whose marriage falls apart after the abduction of his daughter from the back of his truck. Years later, images of the couples’ daughter surface online, forcing Reynolds to risk everything to find his daughter and restore his family. Co-starring Mirielle Enos and Rosario Dawson, with Atom Egoyan directing, the film actually boasts some impressive talent, and the trailer does well in capturing the bleak, frigid backdrop for this crime mystery (audiences will remember how well Winter’s Bone fared with this same formula). Still, the reviews have been nothing short of utterly disappointing, calling the movie thin and lifeless. Not a good sign for a film labeled a thriller.
#4 – Exodus: Gods and Kings
A Ridley Scott movie just doesn’t have the same luster it used to have years ago. While there’s no doubt the director can still make jaw-droppingly impressive visual treats that indulge the senses, there has been a clear lack of engaging narrative in most of his films dating back to his Oscar winning Gladiator (and some may even debate the merits of that film’s story). Which is why fans remained hopeful that Exodus was going to be a return to form for the director, as it is the film that most closely resembles Scott’s Gladiator both in scale and thematics. Still, one can’t help but watch the trailer for Exodus and see a familiar dullness and hollowness in the characters and story, just as was evident in films like Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood, where Scott failed to deliver on any substantial type of conflict or emotional punch. The reviews seem to reinforce our suspicions, as critics have conceded the film to be an impressive feat of visual showmanship with little else to satisfy the audience. Once initially thought to be a possible late awards season contender, Exodus now seems as if it’s going to have a hard go at any award category outside of the visual effects department. Starring Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, and Sigourney Weaver, Exodus is a re-telling of the Biblical story of Moses and his bid to free 600,000 slaves from the rule of Ramses.
#3 – Little Feet (Limited)
When Alexandre Rockwell’s Little Feet premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival, it was lauded, appreciated, and then quickly forgotten – until now. Finally getting a limited release, Rockwell’s Little Feet is pure charm and sincerity. The film takes a cast made up mostly of children and let’s them be, well, children (a concept that worked well for the two best films of the year, We Are the Best! and Boyhood). Little Feet follows a brother and sister as they journey from their L.A. residence to the ocean, with the goal of setting their goldfish free. Rockwell is remembered for his feature from way back when, 1992’s In the Soup, and he has pretty much kept his toes in the indie waters since, with Little Feet proving to be more of the same. Micro-budget, but with a feeling of spontaneity and exploration, the trailer is simple and unassuming in all the right ways, and it’s one of those rare instances in film where you can actually see the director enjoying making the film.
#2 – Top Five
Those of us who have been paying attention always knew Rock was capable of making a movie like Top Five. Although the comedian is known for his raunchy stand-up bits, he’s always made it clear that he’s a fan of art house films, foreign directors, and smart, witty, dialogue-driven comedies. Sure, this is the same man who’s starred in movies like Grown Ups, Grown Ups 2, and The Longest Yard, but he’s also continuously paying homage to Woody Allen, referencing French movies (I Think I Love My Wife is a remake of Eric Rohmer’s Chloe in the Afternoon), and collaborating with indie stalwarts like Julie Delpy. Still, the actor/director/comedian has always found critical praise for his efforts fleeting, and has never quite managed to get the right balance and tone between comedy and characters. With Top Five, Rock may have finally hit his mark, and in a big way. The film appears to be semi-autobiographical, as all Rock movies are (Down to Earth deals with Rock’s stand-up world while the aforementioned I Think I Love My Wife deals with his domestic life), except this time it hits even closer, alluding the the comedian’s sometimes campy film career with faux-movies like Hammy the Bear, as well as making some pointed commentaries on celebrity culture in our reality-obsessed climate. Top Five has been almost universally praised by critics, and could result in a continued renaissance in Rock’s directorial career.
#1 – Inherent Vice
P.T. Anderson is, rightfully, always near the top of most film buff’s lists when mentioning the best modern American directors. Even other greats, such as Tarantino, have mentioned the high regard they carry for Anderson and his films. With Inherent Vice, Anderson is adapting Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name, and the director is trying to emulate the book’s supposed nonsensical, sporadic approach to narrative by giving audiences a similarly confusimg film adaptation. Although most critics admired the effort, many admitted the film lacks any coherency in plot or structure, but those who forgave Anderson for it were able to find that the film’s strengths lied in its humor and unabashed pulpy entertainment. It’s a must-watch for any Anderson fan or self-proclaimed cinephile, even if the film is likely to be too esoteric to get any awards love. It also boasts a rich cast – Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, and Benicio Del Toro – all of whom seem to be having a blast in their roles.
The rest of this weekend’s releases include:
The Color of Time (Limited)
We are the Giant (Limited)
Free the Nipple (Limited)
After the Fall (Limited)
Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks (Limited)