The first Friday of 2017 only offers one new movie hitting theaters nationwide – but after a few weeks of collecting terrible reviews overseas, Sony is sweeping it under the rug stateside and hoping press won’t review it. Aside from that, three Oscar-contenders expand their releases, each of which must be better than Sony’s new picture since their studios are actually rooting for them.
Kate Beckinsale was an up-and-coming actress for some time, but for me it wasn’t until the original ‘Underworld‘ that the name stuck with the face. She reprised her role in the sequel, then disappeared for the third entry, returned for the fourth, and is now back again for the fifth. Like the ‘Resident Evil’ franchise, Beckinsale’s series keeps plugging along, pleasing its devoted fan base just enough to keep them coming back. While both started off as fun action flicks with badass female leads, they’ve lost all sense of style and are basically unwatchable. Apparently, Sony now gets the hint. Not only did they not screen this latest entry, ‘Underworld: Blood Wars‘, for domestic press, but they canceled all public Thursday night showings less than 12 hours in advance, presumably so critics like myself who planned to catch 7 PM screenings couldn’t review it opening day. Bastards.
As of now, ‘Blood Wars’ is said to be the final title in the ‘Underworld’ franchise. Hunted by both her own vampire people and the lycan army, the pot-stirring fighter Selene (Beckinsale) is constantly watching her back. The only people on her side are the Theo James and Charles Dance characters from ‘Underworld: Awakening‘. With them by her side, she aims to achieve the impossible: resolve the centuries-long conflict between vampires and lycans for good. Sony’s marketing says that she’s willing to pay “the ultimate sacrifice” in order to do so, but I highly doubt Selene will be killed off. Enter at your own risk.
This weekend’s smaller releases deliver another variety of monster, a mission to the moon, and a needle-in-a-haystack hunt to theaters near you.
‘A Monster Calls‘ is the wonderful new book-to-film adaptation from J.A. Bayona, the very talented Spanish director of ‘The Orphanage‘ and ‘The Impossible‘. It tells the story of a child whose mother (Felicity Jones) is deteriorating from a bout with cancer. To cope, his mind conjures a Groot-like tree monster that prepared him to overcome his sadness and depression.
Fox’s ‘Hidden Figures‘ may seem like standard feel-good fare that doesn’t warrant Oscars, but it actually breaks out of the mold and achieves quite a bit more than most. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe star as three historical figures whose achievements weren’t recognized (until now) due to their gender and the color of their skin. Collectively, the three black women made very notable advancements in science, equal rights and civil rights.
Finally, there’s ‘Lion‘, which could also be clumped into the feel-good genre. The first half of the film stars a five-year-old boy who gets separated from his family in India. When he’s accidentally locked inside a train that carries him more than 1,000 miles away from his village to a part of the country where people don’t even speak the same language, he must learn to make it on his own. After being lost for so long, he’s eventually adopted by a good family in Australia. The second half of the movie features that same character (played by Dev Patel) as a college student. Now an adult, using modern technology, he looks to find his long-lost family back in India.