Weekend Movies: Peanuts, Popcorn, Cracker Jacks!

Alongside four mostly promising limited releases, this weekend offers two new entries to very old properties.

James Bond is back in action this weekend with ‘Spectre‘. Daniel Craig reprises the iconic British spy role for the fourth time in this, the 24th movie in the franchise. Connecting the dots between his previous three Bond flicks (‘Casino Royale‘, ‘Quantum of Solace‘ and ‘Skyfall‘), the film leads 007 on a mission from Mexico, across Europe and to North Africa to uncover a “rogue nation” that’s behind a great deal of the terrorist and criminal activity in the world. Once again directed by Sam Mendes, but shot this time by Hoyte Van Hoytema (‘Interstellar‘) instead of Roger Deakins, ‘Spectre’ features just as much eye candy as ‘Skyfall’ but far fewer mindless plot holes. With some amazing imagery, I recommend seeing it in IMAX.

Showing on 33 fewer screens than ‘Spectre’ is the return of Charlie Brown and the rest of Charles Schulz’s gang in ‘The Peanuts Movie‘. With heavy involvement from the family of the late Schulz, the classic comic strip has been faithfully adapted to the big screen, updated and modernized with Blue Sky Studios’ CG 3D animation. ‘Peanuts’ kicks off with an episodic first third that sets up fluid second and third acts. The first act’s slowness makes the film drag a bit (both my five-year-old daughter and I were a little bored at first), but the final two-thirds will hook and entertain. In this new tale, self-doubting Charlie Brown has a crush on the new girl in school, but has no idea how to tackle this new life experience. At the same time, we step into the imagination of a dog when Snoopy sets off to type a World War I tale that mirrors Charlie’s debacle. Lightweight and playful, ‘The Peanuts Movie’ is a solid picture worth taking the family to see.

The dramatized ’60 Minutes’ shakedown ‘Truth’ didn’t play too well when it opened a few weeks ago. Nonetheless, following in its footsteps is another journalistic drama that depicts a similar true story scandal. (Come to think of it, fellow historical journalism drama ‘Kill the Messenger‘ flopped last year too.) This weekend, ‘Spotlight‘ will attempt to pull moviegoers in by telling the story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the truth behind a Catholic priest’s scandal involving child molestation and pay-offs. The all-star cast includes Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci and Billy Crudup. Although only kicking off on five screens, being awards season, it will likely expand in the coming weeks – given that it doesn’t flop like ‘Truth’ did.

Since its debut on the festival circuit, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding the new 1940s “Red Scare” blacklisting bio-pic ‘Trumbo‘. Bryan Cranston stars as Dalton Trumbo, a highly successful Hollywood screenwriter who was tried, convicted and jailed for being a Communist. Said to be a brilliant and entertaining film, ‘Trumbo’ co-stars Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Louis C.K., Alan Tudyk and Michael Stuhlbarg. Bleecker Street is distributing it to five screens this weekend, but there hasn’t been any word yet of an expansion.

Acquired by Fox Searchlight at the Sundance Film Festival, the Nick Hornby-written ‘Brooklyn‘ tells the story of an Irish immigrant (Saoirse Ronan) in the 1950s who loves her new nation just as much as her native country. Once in the United States, she falls for an American boy, but at the same time her former Irish boyfriend (Domhnall Gleeson) re-enters her life. Her future is dependent upon choosing to live in the past or the present. Fox Searchlight is rolling the drama onto five screens this weekend.

Lastly, Catherine Hardwick delivers an emotional cancer dramedy with ‘Miss You Already‘. Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore star as lifelong pals whose friendship hasn’t waned despite their paths being very different. One has the perfect family life and career, while the other is unmarried and has an unconventional lifestyle. When one is diagnosed with cancer, their friendship is shaken. Roadside Attractions is testing ‘Miss You Already’ on 384 screens.

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