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.
Here’s a week that makes compiling a list like this incredibly, undeniably easy. On many weeks, it’s hard to even find an adequate fifth film to feature, and as we’ll soon learn (with January and February coming along), some weeks even make it hard to find any film to properly endorse for cinema-goers. But not this week. This week features a fully loaded lineup of dwarves, orcs, English painters, Sacajawea, Attila the Hun, Teddy Roosevelt, and, well…a cold, claustrophobic, bitter, Turkish family. So if you want some holiday sentimentalism by way of fantasy, or some dark, grim, familial conflict and realism, this is a week to strain your eyes. Watch one, two, hell, three movies this week if you can.
#5 – Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
The first movie on our list is the third in a franchise that has proven to be remarkably successful in incredibly competitive weeks (the first film premiered this same holiday week in 2006 while the second premiered during Memorial day weekend of 2009). It’s formulaic, predictable, certain to not take any creative or narrative risks, and quite honestly, all of that is probably going to appeal to a lot of audiences. Secret of the Tomb is probably the safest bet for cinema-goers this week (assuming they’ve seen the first two films and enjoyed them), as most of us know what we’re going to get when we sit down with family to watch. And that’s quite all right in a week like this, where the traditional films usually beat out the more risqué movies released in theaters (last year’s Desolation of Smaug was the safe choice over the less family oriented Wolf of Wall Street). And that’s where Night at the Musuem should fare well with many people; they’ll know what to expect. The third films sees Ben Stiller, the late Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais, Owen Wilson, and Steve Coogan return as they do exactly the same stuff they did the last two times.
#4 – Song of the Sea (Limited)
In 2010 a fantastic, rich, charmingly beautiful animation film called The Secret of Kells was released. One of the most impressive things about that film was the amazing amount of restraint it had in crafting its story. It didn’t pander or talk down to children, as some animation has a tendency to do. It merely crafted a simply unique and intriguing little fable and trusted that an audience would find it. It’s amazing what animation (or any genre, but especially animation) can do when it follows that simple formula. Tomm Moore, the director of that film, returns with Song of the Sea, and truthfully, there’s no other reason to endorse this movie than to say that if it’s anything like Secret of Kells, audiences will once again be delighted. Song of the Sea follows a little girl who is the last of the selkies, mythical women that transform into seals. It looks absolutely endearing, and it’s not hyperbolic to say the trailer looks to be one of the most visually impressive trailers of the year.
#3 – Mr. Turner
It wasn’t possible that we’d go a week without talking about the Oscar race, as much as some of us might hope that would be the case. Mr. Turner throws a wrench in those plans, as it’s said to feature a sure-fire nomination-worthy performance from oft-overlooked thespian Timothy Spall (it could also garner up some other noms as well, since the movie has gotten heaps of praise since debuting at Cannes in May). Spall is even considered the third man in part of a three-way race between Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne for the little gold man (having replaced Benedict Cumberbatch in awards buzz). Does he have a legitimate chance to win? It’s hard to tell, as he’s going up against two big performances from more high-profile films. But the film is sure to receive its due attention during the nomination process, which could bring it an audience that would otherwise have avoided it. It also features a proven Mike Leigh directing, which doesn’t hurt. Mr. Turner tells of the life of J.M.W. Turner, the British painter who sometimes alarmed both the public and royalty with his peculiarities and behavior.
#2 – Winter Sleep (Limited)
Admittedly knowing little about the film or the filmmaker, there is only one reason the justify Winter Sleep being so high on such a list during such a week as this. That reason is the Palme d’Or. That being the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and it being awarded to Winter Sleep this particular year, making it a must watch for followers of the festival circuit. Last year’s Blue is the Warmest Color benefited from its Cannes win by accessing an audience it otherwise may not have been able to reach had it not won (it didn’t hurt that the graphic sex scenes were the source of some controversy). Winter Sleep will be hoping to achieve the same accessibility thanks to the Palme d’Or. Winter Sleep tells the story of a man running a hotel with his wife, and his sister coming to visit, when a winter storm closes the three of them into the hotel, forcing them to face each other and expose their hidden contempts in often bitter and combative ways.
#1 – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
The last installment (for real this time) of the J.R.R. Tolkien saga that Peter Jackson started so many years ago, ended, and then started again, now finally reaches its conclusion. Some are eager for it to simply end, while others are sad to see it conclude (we’re of the latter group here). What can’t be ignored is the cultural significance that the franchise has had on our entertainment landscape (think the uber-popular Game of Thrones would have been possible without the success of the first three Lord of the Ring films?), as well as the undeniable fact that once it’s over, Hollywood will be without a true medieval fantasy franchise of this scope (at least for a while – these things never last). Criticisms regarding Jackson stretching out the thin Hobbit book into three very long films are noted, but one can’t help but imagine that the long running-time of this final film is Jackson’s equivalent to a child’s slow walk to bed – he just doesn’t want it to end. And while it won’t be argued that the latter Hobbit films are not comparable to the first three Lord of the Rings, Jackson and company were still able to achieve a fairly consistent level of quality even in the latter films, and to maintain that through six films is quite impressive in an era where even awful franchises can continually be excused to drudge up worse and worse sequels (Final Destination, Saw, Resident Evil, Underworld).
The rest of this weekend’s releases include:
Tales of the Grim Sleeper (Limited)
Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation (Limited)
The Duke of Burgundy (Limited)
Inside the Mind of Leonardo Da Vinci 3D (Limited)
Goodbye to All That (Limited)
Ask Me Anything (Limited)
If You Don’t, I Will (Limited)
A Small Section of the World (Limited)
What Luck? (Limited)