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.
After a decidedly underwhelming month of March for high-profile films, last week gave us a return to form for the big budget spectacle with Universal’s Furious 7. That proved to be but a momentary high for Hollywood, as this week is decidedly more indie-driven with three foreign features and the two smaller domestic releases. Still, our number one film is a bonafide draw for sci-fi enthusiasts, and the foreign vehicles are all worthy mentions with notable buzz. But our number five film features a familiar face, and it kicks off our list…
#5 – Danny Collins
Al Pacino (The Humbling) is an actor who is often hard to take seriously these days. Between roles in movies like Adam Sandler’s maligned Jack & Jill and promising but unfulfilling turns in talent-heavy films like Stand Up Guys, Pacino’s career has become one that even the most ardent of cinephiles has started to largely ignore. Can he ever get it back? Perhaps, and Danny Collins might be a step in the right direction. Boasting a largely impressive cast – Pacino, Annette Benning (The Kids Are All Right), Bobby Cannavale (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club), Michael Caine (Interstellar), Josh Peck (The Wackness), and Christopher Plummer (Beginnners) – the film tells the story of Danny Collins, an aging rocker whose life and purpose are reinvigorated by a 40 year-old letter written to him by John Lennon. Directed by freshman Dan Fogelman, the trailer isn’t anything groundbreaking, but Danny Collins might be a sign of better things to come for its leading man.
#4 – Clouds of Sils Maria (Limited)
Tackling the theme of aging talent in an altogether different way than our previous feature, Clouds of Sils Maria highlights the inherent struggles and pushback in both fading beauty and youth, in an industry all too concerned with it. Starring the always impressive Juliette Binoche (Godzilla), with Kristen Stewart (Still Alice) and Chloe Grace Moretz (The Equalizer), the story follows an aging actress hired to perform a revival of the play that made her a star twenty years prior, except now she’s playing the role of the older woman, while a young and talented starlet is stepping into the role that she inhabited when she was younger. This reversal causes the older actress to confront her own fears and mortality, as she retreats to the remote area of Sils Maria with her assistant. Directed by Olivier Assayas, who was responsible for the fantastic Carlos, the film should be a showcase for all three actresses to highlight their skills.
#3 – Black Souls (Limited)
An Italian mob film, Black Souls follows the exploits of the ‘Ndrangheta mafia in Southern Italy. It’s also based off the book of the same name by Gioacchino Criaco. That follows the trend of director Matteo Garone’s fantastic Gomorrah (2008), which followed another Italian mafia, the Comorra, and was similarly based off a book of the same name. That film went on to garner a lot of acclaim as well as some appreciation from directing legend Martin Scorsese. Black Souls already has some promising early reviews, but if it can make nearly the same impact that Gomorrah did back in ’08, then we’re in for a treat. The trailer is enigmatic and unrevealing – it’s really more a collection of scenes scrapped together than anything resembling a trailer – but it may work in forcing people to go into the film blindly, which is sometimes much more rewarding.
#2 – About Elly (Limited)
It should be noted that About Elly completely deserves to be number one, and in any other week, it would be. That’s more a statement regarding our number one film, and not any slight on this intriguing and exciting new entry from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whom audiences may be familiar with from his previous effort, the mesmerizing, Oscar-winning A Seperation. That this film is seeing U.S. release right now is of some relevance due to the current U.S./Iran relations that are currently headlining the news, which is why the film should be sought out for cultural and/or cinematic curiosity. The trailer only hints at some of the storyline, but I’ll take the advice of one of the quotes featured in the preview and avoid discussing the film further as it’s stated it’s best to go into this one ignorant.
#1 – Ex Machina
Ex Machina could very well be the sci-fi movie of the first half of the year, and another sign of the amazingly impressive things you can do with the genre on a small budget. Movies like Moon, District 9, Monsters, and Primer all emphatically proved that creativity and story can overtake any production limits a sci-fi film may encounter, and the early buzz is that Ex Machina is a worthy addition to that statement. Writer/director Alex Garland has already made a name for himself as a novelist and screenwriter (Sunshine), but Ex Machina marks the filmmaker’s first foray in the directing chair. And with rising stars Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac – whose star is about to shine much brighter after this year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens - as well as Alicia Vikander (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), Ex Machina is the surefire movie to watch this week.