It’s scary how so many good movies are accessible this Friday the 13th. While three new films debut in wide release, the real excitement comes from the three smaller titles finally expanding nationwide.
Looking at the titles of the new releases, I can’t tell you a single name associated with any of them. However, when you look at the three Oscar contenders, you’ll likely know the names of both the directors and the actors. That just goes to show which trio of titles you should pay attention to.
The biggest of the newcomers is the family action comedy ‘Monster Trucks‘, one of those movies with a trailer that makes you wonder who in the world ever thought it was a great idea. The story takes the term “monster truck” and poses the question: What would it be like if monster trucks were actual monsters in the form of trucks? After sitting in the can for three years, Paramount finally devised a plan for the movie’s release. Said plan includes sweeping it beneath the rug known as January and putting a minimal amount of marketing effort into promoting its release. Monday’s box office numbers ought to be hilarious.
The second-widest newcomer is the PG-13 horror flick ‘The Bye Bye Man‘, another delayed titled. The story follows three college kids who accidentally unleash pure evil. Like Beetlejuice or Candyman, when you say the Bye Bye Man’s name, he comes. With a name that would perfectly fit some cheesy mafioso type, when you summon the Bye Bye Man, he’s only capable of doing one thing: making you go bye bye. After 2016’s bar-raising series of horror entries, this one has absolutely no appeal.
Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx once had a good thing going for him, but now he’s doing January movies that get no publicity whatsoever. When I saw that he was the star of this week’s ‘Sleepless‘, I was shocked because I’d never even heard of it. Not screened for press, the story is nearly identical to that of last year’s sleeper heist film ‘Triple 9‘. Foxx plays an undercover cop who has infiltrated the Vegas Mafia. (I wonder if one of the Mob characters is nicknamed The Bye Bye Man?) When a heist goes south, the Mafia kidnaps his child, sending him on a suicide mission to save his son. Michelle Monaghan, Dermot Mulroney, Gabrielle Union and Scoot McNairy co-star.
Now that we’re through that, let’s get to the better stuff.
Expanding to more screens than any of the new releases is ‘Patriots Day‘, the Mark Wahlberg drama that tells the a-to-z story of the Boston Marathon bombing. Coming just months after his last true story drama, ‘Deepwater Horizon‘, director Peter Berg is taking heat for exploiting real life tragedies, but I don’t get it. With ‘Deepwater’ taking shots at oil companies left and right and ‘Patriots Day’ shedding positive light on the police force when they’re under attack, each film serves a purpose beyond the entertainment surface. In addition, both are very well-made and play out a notch above most true-story adaptations.
Ben Affleck’s ‘Live by Night‘ is also rolling out with a wide reach. Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, it tells the story of a Boston criminal who relocates to sunny Florida with revenge on his mind. The movie isn’t perfect and it definitely needs an extended cut for breathing room, but it’s certainly better than its current 32% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Finally, Martin Scorsese’s lengthy drama ‘Silence‘ is being pushed out to 747 screens, so there’s a good chance it’s playing at a theater near you. Andrew Garfield stars in his second great role of 2016 (the other being ‘Hacksaw Ridge’) as a 17th Century Jesuit priest who, with a fellow priest (Adam Driver), follow God’s promptings to travel to and preach in Japan, a then Buddhist nation in the middle of an inquisition. Knowing that hundreds of thousands of Japanese Christians and foreign priests had been tortured and murdered, they go anyway. With gorgeous cinematography, great performances and a powerful story, ‘Silence’ is golden.