While movies from 2014 will be inundated with accolades this weekend, viewers who don’t care about the Academy Awards have a bunch of mostly anti-Oscar new releases to check out.
Originally scheduled for a Christmas 2014 release, this weekend’s biggest debut is the Cusack-less sequel ‘Hot Tub Time Machine 2‘. John Cusack has appeared in some pretty awful direct-to-video movies recently, so if he wasn’t willing to come back for seconds on this, it’s safe to assume that the raunchy charm of Steve Pink’s first ‘Hot Tub Time Machine‘ must be missing. The rest of the gang return for Part 2, which takes on a bouncing-through-time plot similar to ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’. Although Cusack is nowhere to be found, his character returns in younger form thanks to Adam Scott joining Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke in the unexpected franchise.
The second widest release is Disney’s new PG sports drama ‘McFarland, USA‘. The based-on-a-true story flick tells the tale of a down-and-out high school football coach (Kevin Costner) who’s forced to take a job at a poor school in the desert of central California. The movie explains how he turned his unlikely cross country team into a state championship contender. Last year, Disney put out the similarly inspirational baseball drama ‘Million Dollar Arm’ and focused the story on the rich white man trying to stay rich – as opposed to the two kids from India who had a chance at MLB careers. ‘McFarland’ successfully takes its time doing the opposite: telling the story of the downtrodden Mexican-American kids that make up the team. If you love sports dramas, you’ll love that ‘McFarland’ gets everything right that ‘Million Dollar Arm’ got wrong.
The third wide release of the weekend comes to us from Lionsgate. ‘The DUFF‘ is a teen comedy with a social commentary at its core. Mae Whitman, who is neither fat nor ugly, stars as the Designated Ugly Fat Friend in her group of pretty and popular pals. When she recognizes her social status, she goes from ‘Mean Girl’ to ‘Easy A’ by defying high school’s social expectations and labels. Whether ‘The Duff’ is as good as either of those two other movies is still out with the jury.
With many fans of artsy films playing last-minute Oscar catch-up this weekend, there’s little opening in the way of indie movies. The most notable is ‘Wild Tales‘, which is up for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars and is finally debuting on U.S. soil. The fun and thought-provoking picture is a compilation of vignettes that form a larger tale with a single common theme. With stellar reviews, ‘Wild Tales’ has the most potential, in terms of quality, out of this weekend’s releases.