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.
For cinema-goers, going to the theaters this month has really been a tale of two Marches. On one hand, there has been plenty of intrigue and promise. For those living in big cities with nearby arthouse theaters, indie films like Kumiko the Treasure Hunter, It Follows, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, and Jauja have made the month one that is both refreshing and engaging. On the other hand, for those living elsewhere, with only theaters playing more conventional Hollywood fare, March has probably been a month of utter disappointment. In fact, it can be argued that of the high-profile films, only one (Cinderella) has proven to be worthwhile. This week follows that same narrative, as none of the big budget options (Get Hard, Home, Serena) have proven to be worthy of a mention on our list. So, while our week will follow many of the same trends as the weeks before it, that may not be a bad thing. This is a really solid week, and it will ultimately prove that March 2015 has been a month of great promise for independent film, if not for studio projects.
#5 – Man From Reno (Limited)
Contrary to previous weeks, our number five film this week is a strong and promising effort. Following in the tradition of other notable standout films of the genre – Se7en, Zodiac, Prisoners, The Secret in Their Eyes, Memories of Murder, and Mother – Man From Reno is the most recent addition to the investigative crime drama. It tells the story of a local sheriff, a Japanese author, and a traveler from Reno whose worlds collide just outside of San Francisco when a mysterious drifter disappears, leaving behind his belongings. While the director and cast are unknowns, and the film didn’t play at any of last year’s bigger festivals, it did make the rounds at the smaller festivals, where it garnered its due praise and attention. So it arrives to us this week with a significant (if quiet) amount of fanfare and critical response. The trailer does a good job of presenting the story without spoiling too much of the mystery and relationships between our main characters – just ignore the grating, overbearing and mismatched musical score accompanying it.
#4 – Welcome to New York (Limited)
Gerard Depardieu (Life of Pi) is an actor who as of late has made more headlines for his personal antics than his work on-screen. Abel Ferrara is a true maverick director, living up to the term that is often overused and attributed to directors less volatile and unpredictable than him. Welcome to New York should make the best of these two renegades, as the film’s content and plot line seem perfectly suited to their outsized personalities and antics. It’s the story of a French diplomat whose behavior and sexual deviance finally catches up to him on a visit to New York City. The film is partially based on true events, and if that wasn’t interesting enough, director Ferrara has had some notable squabbles with distributor IFC, because of their refusal to use his cut for the U.S. release. That tidbit may scare away some, but the film has gotten solid reviews despite the bickering, and it also features acting legend Jacqueline Bisset (Day for Night) as perhaps a counter-balance to Depardieu’s more high-wire style.
#3 – Wolf at the Door (Limited)
Another movie inspired by real events, this one by way of Brazil, is Wolf at the Door. The film relays the story of a family rocked by tragedy when their little girl gets kidnapped from school by an unknown woman. This act ultimately leads to the reveal of the husband’s infidelities with another woman, whom the police believe to be involved in the kidnapping herself. The film is sure to carry a certain amount of realism and social commentary, as kidnappings like this are problematic not only in Brazil, but in many South American countries. Brazil is also known for their distinctly hyper-realistic films, often highlighting the ugliness and injustices of their society and government. This point has been most notably shown in classics like Pixote, Central Station, City of God, Elite Squad, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, and Carandiru.
#2 – White God (Limited)
Perhaps one of the most impressive directorial feats of the young year, White God is a film consisting of primarily canine actors. And while that may seem rather common – with films like Homeward Bound, Look Who’s Talking Now and countless others – this film is noticeably different. The scale and amount of dogs filmed for this feature is ambitious enough, but the scenes and situations presented in the film seem to be out of control. A tale of canine rebellion, White God follows a dog forced to find his way back to his owner after he’s left behind when she moves in with her father. What follows is a journey through crowded city streets, populated dog pounds, and outdoor shopping centers. With no CGI, and a large cast of unpredictable canine actors, director Kornél Mundruczó was certain to have his hands full during filming. Even still, the result is apparently quite rewarding, and White God should be able to be appreciated on a technical level alone.
#1 – While We’re Young (Limited)
Our number one comes from the always fascinating worldview of Noah Baumbach, who last gave us one of his best efforts in 2012’s Frances Ha. With While We’re Young Baumbach reunites with his Greenberg star and high-profile comedian Ben Stiller (Night of the Museum: Secret of the Tomb), but also adds the always solid Naomi Watts (Birdman) to the fray for a story about a middle-aged couple whose marriage and professional life are challenged when a young couple enters their lives. With Amanda Seyfried (Ted 2) and Adam Driver (Inside Llewyn Davis) as the younger couple, the trailer proves to have plenty of Baumbach’s sharp writing and comedic wit, and with an assured cast, the lines and characters are certain to hit all the right notes. The film’s gotten solid word-of-mouth, and trailer is everything you expect from a Noah Baumbach film, so there shouldn’t be any surprises with this one. Fans of Baumbach’s previous efforts should view this offering as the closest thing to a sure-bet at the theaters.