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.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire. That’s how cinema-goers should feel about leaving January behind and entering the month of February. A momentary relief followed by a painful realization – yes, we have another month of this to withstand. But really, January wasn’t as bad as it could have been if you made your way out to see some of the indie/arthouse releases, or caught up on the expanded release of some of the December films. How will February compare? If our first week is any indication, not so well. But we may have some salvageable movie nights if we choose carefully. It’s been said before, but it should be reiterated – these are the months to take risks. When there’s nothing to watch in theaters, this is the best time to go out of your way to watch something you’ve never heard of before that looks promising. Perhaps a foreign film? Perhaps a doc? Perhaps Seventh Son? Ha, just kidding. Not Seventh Son.
#5 – Jupiter Ascending
Call it morbid curiosity. That’s the only reason Jupiter Ascending even makes the list this week. The film hardly looks good, but it certainly looks outrageous, and that may be the draw. The Wachowskis have never been afraid to aim high, even if they miss (as they are prone to do). With Ascending, at least nobody can ever accuse them of complacency. In the film, Mila Kunis plays some sort of long lost heir to an inter-galactic dynasty, so of course another heir (Eddie Redmayne) wants her dead, leaving Channing Tatum as the man tasked with protecting her. But really, plot seems to be secondary in a film like this, and even the most hard-nosed critics will concede that the visuals seem to be quite the treat. Reviews, as expected, have been rough, but some of the more generous comments seem to hint that there can be some level of enjoyment found if one just abandons any sort of expectation from the narrative. Not really an endorsement, but not awful? Okay, so probably awful.
#4 – Ballet 422 (Limited)
A documentary about ballet is probably about as niche as one can get in cinema. If it’s hard to get people to head out to theaters for docs, it’s doubly hard to do that for docs about ballet. But in carrying out the recurring theme of these past few weeks, Ballet 422 is a doc that we know little to nothing about, and that’s why it could be worth a gamble. It follows a 25 year old choreographer of the New York City ballet, who’s entrusted with creating the company’s 422nd original piece. There’s not much else to go on outside of some promising reviews, a little faith, and the hope to experience something completely new and alien to anything you may be used to. The penetrative trailer helps in giving us a peek into a corner of life most of us probably know very little about.
#3 – 1971 (Limited)
If ballet isn’t your thing, here’s a more accessible doc you can get behind. 1971 recounts the story of a group of people who took it upon themselves to break into a small FBI office in Pennsylvania, steal classified files, and share them with the public. This action ultimately exposed COINTELPRO, an illegal surveillance program in which the FBI intimidated law-abiding American citizens. This exposure led to the first Congressional investigation of intelligence agencies in the U.S., and those ordinary citizens responsible have never spoken out about their actions until now. The subject matter is fascinating and timely, and certainly draws parallels with some more recent whistleblower stories from Chelsea Manning to Edward Snowden (the latter of which is the subject of the Oscar nominated documentary CitizenFour). The trailer for 1971 also deals with a similarly-themed illegal break-in that audiences may remember was done in thrilling fashion in James Marsh’s documentary Man On Wire. The trailer also hints at some re-enactment footage, which may work for this style of documentary in creating a thrilling and tense account of the story.
#2 – The Voices (Limited)
Ryan Reynolds has been absent recently from both the big screen and people’s collective consciousness. His most recent high-profile gig was the forgettable R.I.P.D., making it tough to remember that the actor once seemed poised for Hollywood leading man stardom. Alas, after a string of failed big budget films and some voice-work in animation, Reynolds now finds himself in a small-profile film in the barren month of February. The film, however, could be quite promising. The Voices follows an affable, if deeply disturbed, Reynolds, who has conversations with his pets in which they convince him to perform murderous deeds. Mixed in between the chaos is his budding relationship with a girl (Anna Kendrick), and his not so helpful therapy sessions with a concerned psychiatrist (Jacki Weaver). The film seems darkly comical in ways that might give Reynolds the room to let his comedic talents shine, while still balancing the heavier moments that the actor has shown he’s capable of channeling. The trailer hints at some amusing banter with the pets of the household, which work in bookending the darker, gruesome moments of violence.
#1 – The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
The absurdity returns for fans of Spongebob Squarepants. The first feature length film, The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, was released over ten years ago. That film, along with the show released five years prior, has helped to make Spongebob and company one of the most lovable cartoon heroes of modern times, tapping into a valuable demographic of both young and older generations. The insane and often nonsensical adventures of Spongebob and friends is what will be the primary draw for many, but others just love the characters. Spongebob, Gary, Patrick Star, Mr. Krabs, Squidward, Plankton, and Sandy all return to take part in the misadventures of Sponge Out of Water. And just to keep things fresh, the animation this time is more CG, with creators utilizing the storyline of Spongebob and his friends having adventures outside of the ocean to justify the change in animation style. Antonio Banderas joins the cast as the antagonist trying to keep the crabby patties for himself.
The rest of this weekend’s releases include: