Hollywood wants to appeal to the youngsters this weekend. After a slew of recent Young Adult adaptations flopped (including ‘Beautiful Creatures’ and ‘The Mortal Instruments’), the studio behind the puzzlingly successful ‘Twilight’ franchise is braving the choppy waters again. At the same time, Disney is back at it with Jim Henson’s most recognizable characters. In essence, this weekend offers a movie for the young adults and another that parents can take their kids to.
The widest of the weekend’s releases is Summit Entertainment’s ‘Divergent‘. Based on the wildly popular book series by Veronica Roth, the first adaptation in the cinematic series sets up a utopia where civilized mankind lives in a fenced-off Chicago and are split into separate factions that balance and harmonize society. Of course, all utopias quickly turn into dystopias. Shailene Woodley leads the cast as a girl who joins a new faction and bites off more than most people think she can chew. Just like ‘The Matrix’, the first two-thirds of the movie set up the world and scenario, and follow the character through training, while the final third shoe-horns in a predictable plot. And like the first ‘Hunger Games’ movie, ‘Divergent’ may not be the strongest start to the series. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not capable of becoming much more (like ‘Catching Fire’ did). Summit is already fast-tracking the sequels, whether audiences flock to see this one or not.
Although Jason Segel has not returned for ‘Muppets Most Wanted‘ (neither in front of nor behind the camera), co-writer Nicholas Stoller and music supervisor Bret McKenzie have. In this self-aware “seventh sequel to the original movie,” Kermit’s is mistaken for a villainous Eastern European frog named Constantine. While Kermit rots in a Russian prison, his evil doppelganger assumes his identity and leads the rest of the Muppets on an around-the-globe heist disguised as a world tour. Tina Fey, Ty Burrell and Ricky Gervais play the main human characters while countless other celebrities show up for cameos.
Lars von Trier has hyped his new graphic sex drama for over a year now. Those living near one of the 25 screens debuting it can see ‘Nymphomaniac: Volume I‘ this weekend. While it’s currently unrated, it would certainly receive an NC-17 if submitted to the MPAA.
For a sick and twisted indie flick, I’m interested in ‘Cheap Thrills‘. Pat Healy and Ethan Embry star as two friends out for a drink when a filthy rich couple offers them cash in exchange for completing dares. The challenges start off innocent and simple enough, as do the cash incentives, but as the night progresses the unbelievable tasks and rewards are raised higher and higher. David Koechner and Sara Paxton play the wealthy couple.
Meanwhile, Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ will also expand to more than 300 screens.