This weekend offers three new wide release movies and two promising limited releases. Honestly, though, Disney’s ‘Zootopia’ will probably win the box office for a third consecutive week anyway.
It’s finally here, or at least half of it. The climactic final novel in your fourth-favorite YA book series has needlessly been adapted into a two-part movie, and the first part is in theaters today. After the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise rightfully split its last book into two movies, every studio with a Young Adult player in the game has followed suit in what has turned out to be a shameless and creatively harmful cash-grab. Such is the case with the ‘Divergent’ series. Even though the title doesn’t inform you of it, ‘The Divergent Series: Allegiant‘ is only half of the final book of that title.
The ‘Divergent’ movies haven’t exactly been great up to this point. The franchise has been barely good enough to make you care to see the next chapter unfold – that is, until now. ‘Allegiant’ unfolds in by-the-numbers fashion, making it extremely predictable. Worse, every ounce of it feels like a knock-off of something you’ve seen in dozens of other movies: ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘The Maze Runner’, ‘Oblivion’, ‘The Matrix’, and so on. This series is headed toward self-destruction entirely based on its lack of creativity. The third movie feels like it was written, shot and directed by a team without any training or education in filmmaking. ‘Allegiant’ may entertain those who read and love the books, but that’s about it.
If you’ve seen the trailers for Sony’s second faith-based picture of the year, ‘Miracles from Heaven‘, you’ve already seen the entire story unfold. A young girl is diagnosed with a rare disease that’s bound to take her life before long. The mother (played by Jennifer Garner, the best and only B-list actor who’d take the role) researches all options and can’t find a single one with positive results. Then, just when hope is lost, the girl nearly dies after falling out of a tree and is spontaneously cured by the accident. Some miracle, eh? The two-hour drama is rated PG and comes from the director of ‘The 33‘, so it’s safe to assume that it feels like a made-for-TV movie.
Somehow making its way to nearly 1,200 screens is ‘The Bronze‘. What? You hadn’t heard of this movie until now? Me neither. Sony Pictures Classics is attempting to capitalize on the popularity of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ by giving one of the show’s supporting actors, Melissa Rauch, her own movie. Rauch plays a small-town celebrity whose sole achievement in life is earning a bronze medal in gymnastics. (I imagine the filmmakers couldn’t get the rights to say it’s a bronze “Olympic” medal.) When a young and promising local gymnast steals her hype, she does everything and anything she can to keep her status.
Even though this week’s wide releases aren’t very enticing, two limited releases are.
Jeff Nichols (‘Take Shelter‘, ‘Mud‘) has been making a very good name for himself. After festival circuit buzz, it looks like his latest film will propel his reputation even further. ‘Midnight Special‘ stars Nichols regular Michael Shannon as a father who realizes that his young son possesses some sort of supernatural power. When shady government figures find out, the father/son duo have to go on the run. The supporting cast includes Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver and Sam Shepard. Warner Bros. is giving ‘Midnight Special’ a platform release that kicks off today on five screens. If it plays as well as ‘Mud’, which was also released with this same unusual model, ‘Midnight Special’ should play wide within the next several weeks.
Also in limited release is ‘The Program‘, a story that – similar to this year’s Best Picture winner ‘Spotlight’ – follows the journalistic investigation that uncovered Lance Armstrong’s use of performance-enhancing drugs. From director Stephen Frears (‘The Queen‘, ‘High Fidelity‘), we should expect a better-than-average movie about this potentially boring topic. Ben Foster plays Armstrong, Chris O’Dowd plays journalist David Walsh, and the supporting cast includes Jesse Plemons, Lee Pace and Dustin Hoffman.
I was surprised to learn that the Roadshow Edition of ‘The Hateful Eight’ was playing this weekend on two digital screens near me (since the one 70 mm print screen near me only plays nature shows). Completely unannounced. Sitting here waiting for it to start.