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.
Let us recall fondly the previous week’s lineup of films before we start our discussion on this week’s list. Remember how we were spoiled with a bouquet of choices? An elegant and deserving live-action fairy tale adaptation? A riveting, unnerving doc? A return to great American horror? Good times. Now comes the buzzkill; this week is decidedly worse. Our three most high-profile films this week all had to sadly battle it out for a mere mention at number five, with unconvincing winner beating out the likes of a dreaded sequel to an already poor franchise (Insurgent), and another film so bad the director had to use a pseudonym (Accidental Love, which was directed by David O. Russell, or rather, “Stephen Greene”). That means our week is chock-full of indies and relative unknowns. But remain hopeful, as our number one film is a bonafide draw, highlighting the week as one of the more fascinating films of the young year. Before that, however, we have our number five film, of which it’s hard to write about with any sort of enthusiasm.
#5 – The Gunman
Generally when an actor takes a brief stint away from work, the hope is that his first movie upon returning is an ambitious and aspiring project that may justify the sabbatical. This is especially true for heavily involved method actors. Daniel Day Lewis took a three year absence after the disappointing Nine and followed it up with an Oscar-winning turn in Lincoln. The Gunman, however, is no Lincoln. The bland trailer for the film features a lot of great actors talking about stuff they’re going to do and sounding really menacing while doing it, with no real sense of any story to draw us in. It features Sean Penn as an action lead, an unconventional role for him, and one perhaps hoping to draw on the same surprising success as 2008’s Taken with Liam Neeson. That comparison is deliberate, as The Gunman is directed by Pierre Morel, who was responsible for Neeson’s current action streak starting with the 2008 action thriller. Still, something seems amiss here, as Sean Penn doesn’t seem quite as menacing a presence as Liam Neeson proved himself to be, and the reviews seem to highlight that Penn appears disinterested in assuming the role of action hero. The Gunman stars Penn (Gangster Squad) along with Javier Bardem (The Counselor), Ray Winstone (Sexy Beast), and Idris Elba (Thor).
#4 – Backcountry (Limited)
This indie feature is an addition to the ever-growing and fascinating “man-versus-nature” sub-genre. Films like The Edge, Into the Wild, 127 Hours, Wild, Alive, All is Lost, Cast Away, and The Grey all help to raise interesting questions on human nature and our primal and most basic survival instincts. Backcountry can hopefully add to those similar themes, but also touch on the added pressure of domestic conflict as a couple finds themselves lost in the woods, pushing their relationship into further tension and drama. There also seems to be a horror element here, as the film purposely attempts to market itself as an offspring to Jaws, and the moments in the trailer with the bears do seem successful in adding a certain level of terror. Whether it works as a horror movie remains to be seen, but it can still be effective in giving people reservations about the trials of the wilderness.
#3 – Spring (Limited)
The best thing about the trailer for Spring is how abruptly the tone takes a decidedly darker and more sinister turn, fooling us early on into the notion that we’re previewing an indie romance, only to slowly pull back the curtains and reveal to us something far more haunting. If the film succeeds on the same level as the preview, audiences are sure to be in for quite a treat, as the tonal shift from rom-com to horror can be amazingly potent if done correctly (readers may recall perhaps the most infamous example of this in Takashi Miike’s Audition). Reviews have been promising, and the added bonus of the film being classified as sci-fi on top of the horror and romance elements certainly adds another layer of mystery to the plot. Spring is a film filled with relative unknowns, from the actors to the director, and it’s the type of film that benefits from this. It’s better not to know too much about this one before taking the leap.
#2 – Jauja (Limited)
Jauja is the type of film for the extremely patient. Directed by the Argentine Lisandro Alonso – who some may be familiar with through Los Muertos, Liverpool, and La Libertad – the film is an exercise in stunning beauty, and slow, plodding pacing. As with his previous efforts, Jauja is sure to move at a sometimes devastatingly prolonged tempo, but it can be a wholly rewarding experience for those willing to see it through. The trailer alone displays the undeniable beauty of Alonso’s vision, and fans of directors like Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life) or the late Andrei Tarkovsky (Solaris) can appreciate the often slow and lacking narrative for something of pure wonder and beauty. Still, it should be noted that the film is sure to be divisive, as Alonso’s directorial style is extremely unwonted. But if you temper your expectations accordingly and decide to venture out for this one, it’s sure to be quite the visual treat. Jauja stars Viggo Mortensen in a story that follows a father and his daughter as they venture from Denmark towards uninhabited territory. If anything, the trailer is worth watching alone for the beauty of the images and the inspired choice of aspect ratio.
#1 – Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (Limited)
Our undeniable number one choice comes first with a fascinating backstory that can also serve as the plot of the film. In 2001, a disillusioned Japanese woman watched the film Fargo with the belief that it was genuinely a true story (as the film infamously claims in the opening sequence). Leaving her life in Tokyo behind, she set out for Minnesota in hopes of finding the large amount of money left hidden by Steve Buscemi’s character in the film. That story, amazingly enough, is true (unlike Fargo), and serves as the fascinating plot line for this film directed by David Zellner. Kumiko has already played at festivals, where it has gotten unwavering praise and recognition, being described as hauntingly beautiful, with a marvel of a performance from Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim).
The rest of this weekend’s releases include:
Accidental Love (Limited)