Weekend Movies: For the Birds

This weekend offers three big movies, each storming more than 3,000 screenings. One’s an acclaimed sci-fi novel turned blockbuster hopeful, one’s a geriatric version of ‘The Hangover’, and one’s a CG knock-off of ‘Chicken Run’. Yet it’s the limited releases that deserve your attention.

Free Birds‘ debuts on the highest number of screens this weekend. The family-friendly animated flick follows a pair of turkeys on a mission to put an end to their species being a holiday meal staple. How will they do it? Time travel. No joke. They’re determined to undo the historical events that led to turkeys becoming Thanksgiving dinner. The voice cast includes Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson, Amy Poehler, George Takei and Keith David.

The second biggest release is ‘Ender’s Game‘, based on Orson Scott Card’s award-winning science fiction novel about a future in which children are trained to lead Earth’s armies against an intergalactic insects. ‘Hugo’ star Asa Butterfield plays the lead, with Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin in supporting roles. Card has a problem keeping his political and social views (unrelated to the content of this story) to himself, so a growing group of vocal boycotters may ultimately damage the film’s chances for success.

The third wide release is Jon Turteltaub’s ‘Last Vegas‘. Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline play a group of sixty-somethings who head to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. PG-13 shenanigans ensue. Have fun with that.

As if those weren’t enough, a slew of buzzed-about smaller films also debut in limited release.

My person pick of the week – and year – is Richard Curtis’ ‘About Time‘. Containing more laughs, romance and honesty than any movie since ‘Love Actually‘ (from the same writer/director), the film stars Domhnall Gleeson as a twenty-something who learns about his family’s ability to travel back in time. Bill Nighy and Rachel McAdams co-star. Although only opening on 175 screens today, Universal will expand ‘About Time’ wide next weekend. You can read my gushing, spoiler-free review here.

Rumored awards contender ‘Dallas Buyers Club‘ opens on nine screens. The drama documents the real-life battles of an HIV-infected man (Matthew McConaughey) against medical and pharmaceutical companies in the mid-’80s. McConaughey is said to be a shoe-in for a Best Actor nomination. Focus Features will expand its release as we get deeper into awards season.

Naomi Watts brings the iconic British princess to life in ‘Diana‘. The bio-pic follows the last two years of Diana’s life leading up to her fateful car crash. Unlike ‘Dallas Buyers Club’, ‘Diana’ has relatively little buzz.

Finally, expanding to 413 screens is Fox Searchlight’s Oscar contender ‘12 Years a Slave‘. Still not playing in your area? Don’t sweat it. The platform release expands wide next weekend.

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