After such a lousy summer, September continues strong this week thanks to Oliver Stone, which is a surprisingly thing to say considering his last several films. Alongside that come two sequels and a pair of musical documentaries.
Earlier this year, Paramount took us by surprise with the unexpected sequel ’10 Cloverfield Lane’. With fanboys and the internet so often stealing away the element of surprise from Hollywood, it was refreshing to be caught off-guard by a spinoff nobody knew was even coming. During San Diego Comic-Con, Lionsgate pulled the same move by announcing that its new horror movie, previously titled ‘The Woods’, was actually a secret sequel to ‘The Blair Witch Project’.
Rolling out to 3,121 screens, ‘Blair Witch‘ is the biggest release of the weekend. When the original movie debuted in 1999, it had several factors working in its favor. It was the first mainstream Found-Footage movie, the marketing campaign made people believe that it was a real documentary, and the internet was still young so widespread spoiling wasn’t able to undermine it. Unfortunately, two of those three things are now unable to aid this crap sequel. Found-Footage movies are a dime a dozen and the internet has taken away a lot of the magic and potential for new movies. The only thing that Hollywood could replicate from the original movie’s release was the marketing. If you’ll notice, nothing has been revealed about the sequel’s plot or how it connects to the previous ‘Project’. I won’t spoil it here, but I will say this: Get ready for the exact same movie as the original ‘Blair Witch’, only with 720p video and CG effects.
After a six-year absence from the movie business, Renée Zellweger sadly returns in a cheap studio cash-grab on a second sequel to a franchise that nobody asked for. In 2001, the Richard Curtis-written ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary‘ opened with great response – even despite the grammatically incorrect title. Three years later, Universal followed it up with ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’. Now, 12 years after the last installment and 15 years after the original, Zellweger is back in ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby‘, which returns the grammatical error and places the once-original franchise in the land of tropes. Hitting 2,927 screens, this one revolves around the mid-40s character ending one relationship and starting another, only to learn that she’s pregnant and clueless as to which man is the father. Colin Firth and Patrick Dempsey co-star. Emma Thompson co-wrote the screenplay.
Oliver Stone’s latest controversial film wrapped production in early 2015 and was slated for a quick turnaround late last year. When its release was bumped back to 2016, unfinished visual effects were blamed for it not being ready for awards season 2015. Although Stone’s last few movies have been terribly edited messes, it appears that the extra year gave him plenty of time to give this one the attention it deserved, because it’s great.
While 2014’s Oscar-winning documentary ‘Citizenfour‘ did a great job of explaining the Edward Snowden story in what felt like a real-time, first-person perspective, documentaries rarely go mainstream. Stone’s ‘Snowden‘ bio-pic brilliantly puts the story into dramatic form and adds context to the reason Snowden did what he did. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives one of his very best performances to date. Shailene Woodley is also fantastic. Best yet, Oliver Stone returns to form.
‘Snowden’ is certain to be surrounded by controversy, but those who see it will at least have new insight into the story that the media missed. During Fathom Events’ live Q&A following special advance screenings, Edward Snowden himself explained that his only hope for what moviegoers will take away from the film is the desire to have conversations about it, no matter their opinions on the matter. For those who give it a shot, it will definitely stir some great conversation and (hopefully) friendly debate.
The faith-based movie market has been ramping up for the last several years. This weekend brings one in documentary form, something that hasn’t been seen on this level to date. After original distributor Relativity Media declared bankruptcy last year, Pure Flix snatched up ‘Hillsong: Let Hope Rise‘, and have it playing in an undisclosed number of theaters across the country this weekend. (Although the screen count isn’t know at this time, we know that its opening is officially classified as “wide.”) The rock-doc explains the origins of the Aussie Christian band Hillsong and how it came to be an international church with more than 50 million followers worldwide.
Playing in limited release is Ron Howard’s new long-titled documentary ‘The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years‘. Although the Beatles are, arguably (of course), the biggest and best band of all-time, they really only toured for a few of their early years. This doc takes us through their touring journey from 1963 to 1966. For it, Howard and crew went to the fans to ask for never-before-seen footage, and that’s just what they got. In what’s said to be a great film, ‘Eight Days a Week’ doesn’t just show the same Ed Sullivan footage we’ve seen time and time again; it gives us the first new look at The Beatles in years.