This weekend brings a trio of war-filled films. The widest release is of the animated family-friendly variety with a war against evil. The next one is similar to ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, only with stocks replaced by wartime weapons. Finally is a remake of a classic epic that nobody asked for. How would you like your war served, PG, PG-13 or R?
Laika has now made four stop-motion animated films. Each of the first three (‘Coraline‘, ‘ParaNorman‘ and ‘The Boxtrolls‘) are unusual, yet extremely well-crafted and very enjoyable. To our benefit, the studio’s fourth picture not only follows suit, but just might earn Best Animated Feature trophy at the Oscars.
Because Laika films typically open smaller, I’m surprised at how wide a release ‘Kubo and the Two Strings‘ is getting. Opening on 3,260 screens, the fantasy film tells the story of a unique kid with untapped powers. After being shipwrecked as a baby, he and his wounded mother made a home for themselves in a cave by the sea. Their unknown location keeps the two of them safe from evil forces that wish to do them harm. When Kubo accidentally reveals himself to the dark forces working against them, he’s sent on a deadly journey to find the tools that will make him untouchable. Along the way, he’s united with two battle-worthy companions – a monkey (Charlize Theron) and a man-beetle (Matthew McConaughey) – to help him achieve success. With brilliant animation, a great big heart, a whole lot of laughs and, surprisingly, a great deal of stressful tension, ‘Kubo’ is easily the best of this week’s new offerings.
The second-widest release is ‘War Dogs‘, a true story antihero drama starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller. The two play a pair of young guys who find a way to make lots of money off the U.S. government by selling weapons to Middle Eastern allies. They figure that if someone is going to make a profit off war, why shouldn’t it be them? Todd Phillips, director of the ‘Hangover’ movies, helmed the picture that is said to be quite a bit better than it sounds. Although it looks like ‘Lord of War’ meets ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, the Phillips-Hill-Teller combination is said to be a good one.
When Paramount greenlit the $100 million ‘Ben-Hur‘ remake, I think the studio thought it would be a major summer tentpole with great appeal. With wildly negative press and pre-release perception, it looks like that plan is about to backfire. Reports are already claiming that it will be the biggest box office flop of 2016, which is huge considering it’s opening just several weeks after ‘Ghostbusters’ (another unwanted reboot). Timur Bekmambetov – who gave us the interesting ‘Night Watch’ movies, the fun ‘Wanted’, and the terrible ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ – directs with Jack Huston (who?!) in the title role. Toby Kebbel (‘RockNRolla’), Rodrigo Santoro (‘300’) and a paycheck-needing Morgan Freeman co-star. The CG-filled epic hits 3,084 screens this weekend.
Werner Herzog is one of the most unpredictable and interesting filmmakers out there. His latest, ‘Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World‘, is a documentary that plays with the idea of technology and the road that society may be headed down because of it. Magnolia hasn’t announced the screen count for this weekend, but I imagine it won’t be long before the movie is available On-Demand.
Expanding this week is the modern-day western ‘Hell or High Water‘, starring Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges. If playing in your area, definitely consider checking that one out.