Four new movies open nationwide this week, plus three awards hopefuls in limited release, one wide expansion, and a partridge in a pear tree. Nothing (worthwhile) dared to open against ‘Star Wars’ last week, but that’s not the case for Christmas day.
The widest new offering is Paramount’s comedy that pits Will Ferrell against Mark Wahlberg in a familial setting. In ‘Daddy’s Home‘, Ferrell plays a harmless businessman stepfather to Linda Cardellini’s two children. When the kids’ ruffian biological father (Wahlberg) comes to town, the battle begins. In childish fashion, the two men duke it out to win the favoritism of the children. Ferrell and Wahlberg lacked comedic chemistry in ‘The Other Guys’. Who knows is they can fake some this time?
The second-widest release is the unnecessary PG-13 remake of ‘Point Break‘. The original film already inspired a knockoff that swapped waves for fast cars. The ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise saw success by taking the story to the extremes, so now the ‘Point Break’ remake tries to raise the bar by adding many more extreme sports to the mix. It’s like a knockoff of a knockoff, but without a single ounce of merit or entertainment. Comprised of a B- and C-list cast, ‘Point Break’ lacks fun. Sure, the couple heist sequences and well-shot stunts are cool, but not cool enough to make it worthy of your $10. If you were considering 3D, that option is just as unnecessary as the movie itself.
David O. Russell had quite a resurgence with ‘The Fighter’ and ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, but lost steam and creativity with ‘American Hustle’. His latest film, ‘Joy‘, also isn’t much worth investing time in. Russell’s muse Jennifer Lawrence plays the title role of Joy Mangano. With a crappy family life and a failed marriage, Joy refuses to be a victim of her circumstances. Just when rock bottom nears, she decides to take control of her life, stop accepting no for an answer and put everything on the line to pursue her passion. Where the story is headed, you may not know until you watch it. Be prepared for it to go in a forced direction that doesn’t entirely work. Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Virginia Madsen and Edgar Ramirez (who also appears in ‘Point Break’) co-star.
Will Smith didn’t entirely rebound from last year’s flop ‘After Earth’ with ‘Focus’ earlier this year, but ‘Concussion‘ will get him back to where he used to be. The idea behind the true story sports drama sounds like a bore, but it’s actually a solid, honest and well-made portrayal of the NFL’s shady history. Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the brilliant pathologist who uncovered the truth behind the long-term brain damage suffered by football players as a result of repeated head trauma, and the NFL’s attempt to sweep it under the rug. If you’ve watched any football recently, then you know that ‘Concussion’ is being heavily marketed during the games. Yes, this film was somehow made with the cooperation and participation of the organization, despite not depicting it in a nice light.
The roadshow version of Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film kicks off on 100 projectors across North America that have been retrofitted for the supremely wide 70 mm Ultra Panavision presentation. ‘The Hateful Eight‘ tells the deadly tale of eight badasses who end up stranded in a mini hotel high atop a Rocky Mountain pass during a massive blizzard. Handcuffed to one is a wanted woman with a huge bounty on her head. Being force to spend a few days together, none of them appear to be who they say they are. Like a mix of ‘Clue‘ and ‘The Thing‘, ‘The Hateful Eight’ is chock full of wonderful dialog that’s cemented together with tension and wild bursts of extreme violence. Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen and Demian Bichir star, with Zoe Bell, James Parks and Channing Tatum in supporting roles. The roadshow version features alternate footage and an intermission. The digital version that opens wide on December 31st doesn’t include the extended footage nor the intermission.
After big wins last year with ‘Birdman‘, Alejandro Iñárritu is back on the big screen with a film that’s just as ambitious, yet completely different. ‘The Revenant‘ stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a hunter/pelter in the 1820s frontier. With winter snapping at their heels, he and his half-Native American son lead their team back to camp after a horrific massacre left the majority of their company dead. A vivid bear attack leaves him severely wounded and presumed dead. What follows is his solo tale of survival from wildlife, the elements, bad men and natives. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and the performances are top notch. Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter co-star. The film’s four-screen kick-off starts now, but expands wide on January 8th.
Sundance Selects is placing the awards hopeful ‘45 Years‘ on three screens this weekend. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay star as a couple who, on the eve of their 45th wedding anniversary, have a skeleton from the long lost past come out of the proverbial closet. The result shakes their marriage and lives to the very core.
Last weekend’s well-received dramedy ‘The Big Short‘ also expands nationwide this weekend.