This weekend, your new movie-watching options are: Adam Sandler fighting against classic videogame characters, more teenage angst, or a pretty strong boxing movie that doesn’t feature a character named Rocky.
The widest release of the week is Adam Sandler’s action-comedy ‘Pixels‘, which actually features the most promising plot of a Sandler movie since ‘Happy Gilmore’. Like in the book/movie ‘Contact’, humankind has been projecting signals into the galaxy for decades. When feeds of classic videogames make their way to extraterrestrial beings, the aliens mistake the transmissions for Earthly threats and decide to counter-attack with larger-than-life videogame characters of their own. If you can look past the casting of Sandler, Kevin James (as the President of the United States, somehow) and a dozen other people with the Sandler last name, the plot and the rest of the cast – which includes Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Brian Cox and Sean Bean –actually seems to have some potential.
The next biggest release comes to us from the author of last year’s hit ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. Also featuring teenage characters and capitalizing on the YA fanbase, ‘Paper Towns‘ tells another tale of hipster kids in love. When a mysterious dreamgirl sneaks into his room one night and takes him on a hyper romantic and unpredictable evening of shenanigans, only to completely disappear the next day, a lovestruck boy takes his friends on the ultimate treasure hunt. Following clues that she supposedly left behind for him, their wild journey will be an unforgettable one. Despite the mostly unknown cast, if it can follow the success of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, this author is going to be the next Nicholas Sparks – only, hopefully, without the predictable random death at the end of each sappily romantic tale.
This weekend’s third nationwide debut comes to us from Antoine Fuqua, the director coming hot off the remake of ‘The Equalizer‘. ‘Southpaw‘ tells the rags-to-riches story of a boxer (Jake Gyllenhaal) at the very top of his game. Tragedy strikes after winning the light heavyweight title and everything comes toppling down. When his wife (Rachel McAdams) dies suddenly, he mentally, emotionally and physically crumbles. Not only does he lose his wife, but his daughter is taken by Child Protective Services and his home and belongings are repossessed. At rock bottom, with the help of an honorable trainer (Forest Whitaker), he must find the determination to put himself, his family and his career back together. If you can wade through the under-edited first half, the boxing- and training-filled second half of ‘Southpaw’ is pretty great.
Lionsgate continues its string of barely-marketed limited release movies with the low-budget, PG-13 horror title ‘The Vatican Tapes‘. Michael Peña (whom you can also see in ‘Ant-Man’ right now), Dougray Scott and Djimon Hounsou star as three Catholic exorcists attempting to remove a hellish demon from a possessed girl (Olivia Taylor Dudley). If this completely unoriginal and worn-out plot follows the same course as the studio’s other recent efforts, enter at your own risk.
Also in limited release is ‘Unexpected‘, in which ‘How I Met Your Mother’ star Cobie Smulders plays a high school teacher who finds herself knocked up simultaneously with one of her teenage students. Who knew that “unexpectedly pregnant” would become a popular indie sub-genre?