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 week which saw two disasters – one literally (San Andreas) and one figuratively (Aloha) – occupy movie screens and give many of us a lack of decent options at the cineplex, this week was starting to look equally disappointing. But thanks to the smaller foreign and indie markets, our list this was salvaged. Still, the higher profile features didn’t seem terribly promising, meaning another week at home, or another helping of the movies we did love on the big screen (you can never watch Mad Max enough times). But then something welcoming and unexpected happened. One of our seemingly bland, high-profile releases for this week started to generate solid buzz and word of mouth, making the week suddenly more interesting and promising, and salvaging Hollywood films from the doldrums it seemed to have been experiencing since the release of the universally loved Mad Max. So, fear not cinephiles, this week may not be so bad after all.
#5 – Entourage
It’s hard to muster up any enthusiasm for Entourage if you’ve never watched the show. However, it’s even harder to get enthused if you’ve watched the show and openly dislike it (as is the position of yours truly). Make no mistake, Entourage is a film made primarily for the fans of the popular HBO series, and in many respects, it seems as if it will appease its core audience. The trademarks of the show all seem to have made it into the film – the lavish party scenes, the glamorization of celebrity life, the endless celebrity cameos – so the challenge for writer/director and original showrunner Doug Ellin is in extending the appeal further out to a larger audience that may not be familiar with the series. Will the usual tropes of the show be enough to succeed in doing so? It’s hard to tell, but reviews don’t seem promising. Most of the criticism stems from the fact that the film seems to practically be one large episode of the series, and nothing more. That may seem like welcoming news to fans of the show, but it isn’t that appealing for everybody else. Still, if history is any indication, perhaps Entourage will have no problem appealing to a broader base. Sex and the City, HBO’s last property to get the silver screen treatment, was a box office success that was able to generate a sequel and garner massive audiences, despite the critical derision.
#4 – Charlie’s Country (Limited)
It’s not secret how we feel about Australian Cinema here. We often find any excuse to praise the original, inventive, and inspired ways in which the Aussies convey their stories to the world. Work like Chopper, The Babadook, Animal Kingdom, The Snowtown Murders, The Rover, The Horseman, and Samson & Delilah are just some examples of the fantastic work coming out of Australia in the past few decades or so. Even so, one of the large criticisms of Australian Cinema is that there’s only a small sampling of films coming out of the country dedicated to the Aboriginal culture. In fact, of the aforementioned films, only Samson & Delilah focuses on telling the story of the Aborigine people. Still, the result was quite fantastic and moving, and so a movie like Charlie’s Country is a welcome sight out of Australia. The film tells the story of a warrior from an Aboriginal community caught between a modern culture which threatens to engulf him, and the more traditional ways of the Aborigine people, which he struggles to maintain.
#3 – A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Limited)
Those who have seen Swedish director Roy Andersson’s previous efforts – You, the Living and Songs From the Second Floor – know that a certain amount of patience is required to watch the filmmaker’s work. But then, the experience can be completely rewarding and unlike anything you’re likely to have seen before. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence is considered the third installment in a thematic trilogy for Andersson (the aforementioned films being the other two). The filmmaker specializes in letting the absurdity and humor of life unfold in often bland, simple settings, and A Pigeon Sat on a Branch continues that trend. While the film is atypical of the blockbuster extravaganza that we usually like to seek out during the summer, it could prove to be an intriguing alternative for those of us who yearn for some smaller, more intimate movies every once in a while. A Golden Lion winner at the Venice Film Festival, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch‘s appeal lies in its closed intimacy in a season where films, settings, and stories can span entire continents, globes, or even universes.
#2 – Spy
Spy is our definitive and pretty much unchallenged big budget Hollywood film of the week. After last week’s disappointing line-up (San Andreas, Aloha) of big budget suitors trying to entertain us, audiences had been pretty much craving something suitable and accessible that they can watch in theaters as opposed to just watching Age of Ultron or Mad Max for the umpteenth time. Admittedly, Paul Feig’s Spy did not appear to be that movie at first, with the trailers for the film showcasing what seemed to be a rather simple and formulaic comedy not too dissimilar from Feig and star Melissa McCarthy’s previous collaboration, The Heat. Imagine our delight then, when the reviews came pouring in, with critics claiming this union between McCarthy and Feig is more Bridesmaids than Heat, giving all of us a sudden added enthusiasm in seeking out the action comedy. McCarthy, who sometimes gets unfairly targeted from critics for playing the same role over and over (even though those same critics seem to casually overlook Will Ferrell’s recurring man-child characters), seems to be given more room to flesh out a more grounded performance here, and it may be what makes the film work.
#1 – Love & Mercy (Limited)
Another musical biopic, Love & Mercy‘s appeal is in its promise to be original in a sub-genre that has increasingly gotten safer and subsequently less engaging for audiences. Last year’s Get on Up and Jimi: All is By My Side were serviceable films, but they never seemed to stray too far away from the borders from which the musical biopic has come to contain it’s subjects and stories. Love & Mercy, which premiered in festivals as far back as last year, is said to handle the biopic without the added safety net with which so many previous films relied upon. And the performances from its two leads, Paul Dano and John Cusack – both of whom play Beach Boy Brian Wilson, at two different stages in his life – are said to be revelatory work from both actors. Directed by Bill Pohlad, whose kept himself more occupied recently as a producer than a director, the story follows Brian Wilson at two different points in both his musical career and personal life.