In both nationwide and limited release, there are way too many movies opening this weekend.
Disney is making a film critic’s job too easy with the release of the PG-rated family flick ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day‘. The title contains four adjectives that describe the movie itself. Alexander is an average Wimpy Kid type of character. He’s picked on and weird, and no one in his successful happy family can relate to him. For his blow-out-the-birthday-candle wish, he wills his family to spend one day in his hard world. As everything falls apart for the family of six, they realize that they must rely on one another to endure the day. Even as a father and family man myself, the only upside that I can see with this movie is its 81-minute runtime.
The second-widest release of the weekend is Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall’s cheap attempt at getting into this year’s Oscar race. Downey leads ‘The Judge‘ as Tony Stark with a law degree and even bigger daddy issues. When his mom passes away, he returns to his Indiana hometown for the funeral and gets stuck there when his honorable judge father (Duvall) is suspected in a fatal hit-and-run accident. The father and son must reconcile their differences with each other and with the law. Unlike the brief ‘Alexander’, ‘The Judge’ carries a bloated 141-minute runtime that makes its predictable, clichéd and manipulative storytelling torturous. Not even great supporting performances by Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio and Jeremy Strong can make it worthwhile.
Universal kicks off the first of its Classic Monster movie reboots with ‘Dracula Untold‘, a new origin tale for the used-to-be bad guy. In the movie, Orlando Bloom lookalike Luke Evans plays Vlad Tepes, the good prince of Castle Dracula. When he openly defies the Turkish king (Dominic Cooper) who seeks to steal away 1,000 of his kingdom’s children, including Vlad’s own son, a major war is waged. Light in numbers, Vlad hands himself over to a beast that lives in the dark shadows of a nearby mountain where he’s transformed into a monster of similar form – all for the sake of saving his kingdom. Although a fairly mild movie in every aspect (especially in vampire violence), its playful ending may leave you hoping to see Dracula return to the big screen in ‘Avengers’ fashion alongside Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolfman and the Mummy.
Unbeknownst to me until now, Lionsgate also has a movie debuting nationwide this weekend. ‘Addicted‘ stars a bunch of no-name actors in the story of a woman who finds love elsewhere while her husband dedicates too much time to his work. Things get hairy as she tries to break her affair off with this other man, shifting the movie from drama to thriller. Personally, it looks like direct-to-video content to me.
In limited release, Sony Classics’ highly acclaimed festival acquisition ‘Whiplash‘ kicks off on six screens. Sometimes-annoying Miles Teller stars as a musically talented kid whose mentor (J.K. Simmons) will do whatever it takes to help him succeed. Word has it that ‘Whiplash’ is brutal, dark and amazing.
The Weinstein Company is opening Bull Murray’s latest indie comedy ‘St. Vincent‘ on four screens one week ahead of its wide release. The comedian stars as the misunderstood neighborhood curmudgeon whose true colors are revealed when he begins helping out a single-mom (Melissa McCarthy) by watching her son every day. Naomi Watts co-stars in this potentially entertaining comedy.
Director Tommy Wirkola say that he won’t return for the ‘Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters‘ follow-up because he doesn’t want to get stuck doing sequels, yet here he’s made ‘Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead‘. Zombie Nazis are back, so it’s sure to be another bloody good time.
Focus Features has more Oscar bait with ‘Kill the Messenger‘. Director Michael Cuesta tells the true story of Gary Webb (played by Jeremy Renner), the relentless reporter who uncovered the United States’ secret involvement in Nicaragua’s civil war. ‘Kill the Messenger’ will expand over the next few weeks.
Finally, religion makes its way to the cinemas again with ‘Meet the Mormons‘. In the wake of several faith-based box office hits this year, it seems that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is looking to strike while the iron’s hot – but in a pretty unique way. The film is an entirely not-for-profit production. The documentary focuses on the stories of several everyday people who practice the religion, and all net proceeds from the film will be donated to the American Red Cross. As someone who lives in Utah (in other words, Mormon Central), I’ve seen my fair share of bad Mormon cinema. (Thank heaven that you never even hear of most of it.) However, this documentary is actually well-made and entertains through telling interesting tales about its subjects.