This weekend is a battle of the broad demographics, with 2 Guns playing to the dudes and The Smurfs 2 reaching for your children. In other words, it’s not the most imaginative week at the movies, even during this overly repetitive summer. Search beyond the mainstream releases, however, and you’ll find some pretty worthwhile films to seek out. We took the time to rank this week’s top 5 theatrical releases and both wide releases were absent from it, so we’re gonna say it’s not a great week to take the multiplex at face value. Scroll down to see what indie films are more worth your time.
Top 5 Theatrical Releases
Joaquim Lafosse’s film about a domestic living situation gone devastatingly awry has been on my mind ever since I caught it in New York last year, after which I immediately tweeted “I really need a hug after Our Children. No way it makes the Foreign Language Oscar nod, but damn it should!” That statement has become bitterly true with the months gone by, and that difficult nature had left it in distribution limbo for some time. I worried it wouldn’t come out this year, but lo and behold, it’s gotten a small distribution deal. Won’t get the publicity it absolutely should, but if audiences have any sense, they’ll do what they can to seek it out. As I said in my review: “The film isn’t dramatically over-styled, instead using its cinematic properties as further walls for the characters to barge into. The house they live in seems to shrink around them, with not even room enough to fit the entire frame. It creates a pressurized container for Murielle and the audiences, and it makes the experience an increasingly intense one. The final twenty minutes of the film are nearly impossible to watch, not on merit of visual disgust but implicit tragedy. And that’s all from a plot circumstance revealed in the first two minutes of the film.” (Trailer)
A24 acquired this film at Sundance following a wave of enthusiasm, James Ponsoldt’s followup to last year’s Smashed having once again struck a sweet emotional chord with viewers. Since then, it’s been looming on the horizon as less of a question mark than a ‘…’, as that prior film only vaguely charmed me and this one has looked similarly sweet, but a tad too swooning. Still, I can imagine many walking into this nostalgic trip back to the lost days of high school and being won over by it, as well as the performances of rising star Shailene Woodley and emerging talent Miles Teller. In this case, Sundance has served as a springboard for young stars seeking a breakout, and given A24’s penchant for expanding their films wide in their 2nd/3rd weekends, you’ll probably see this one coming to a local venue soon. (Trailer)
I guess a single name can demolish any credibility your film has, at least in the public eye. It’d be one thing to judge on the weight of director Paul Schrader (Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters) or writer Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho), but at face value the film is being perhaps too quickly dismissed on Lindsay Lohan’s presence in it. It’s silly to dismiss a film on such facile grounds, especially since the trailer hints at the bigger issue with the film being the overtness of its meta-film subtext. Still, this film represents an intriguing risk, and in the best of situations an actor’s sleazy presence can be used to reinforce the film’s themes, Southland Tales being an example. Like that film, I imagine The Canyons could be hated by many, but defended by a few who see subversive artistry in it. Not yet certain where I fall under, it’s a film I hotly anticipate catching on VOD this weekend, even if it’s a glossy disaster. Hell, I may love it all the more if it is that. (Trailer)
For bonus reading: ‘The Canyons’ Is Ugly, Lifeless and Cheap – So What? via Film.com
Fernando Trueba has never made a film I’ve loved, but he’s made a few films worth liking. His most recent took the animated route, with Chico & Rita even etching out a cult following after its surprising Oscar nominated. Quite similarly, The Artist and the Model looks pleasantly appealing visually, but pretty flaccidly inactive in terms of its dramatic story. The story of sexual attractions between an aging artist and his nude model might ring overly familiar, because it is. The trailer even hints at a lame attempt to make the plot seem shocking. “pose while the artist works.” “Naked!?!” Oh, what a horrid shock! Cue the melodramatics that will make this film a nonfactor in the art house. Still, looks pretty enough, and that gives it a leg up on every wide release this weekend. (Trailer).
The found footage subgenre has officially become a pain in my neck. Not that it wasn’t before, but sitting down for Europa Report I had the deepest feeling of “been there, seen that”. The film itself, though, is just slightly above the run of the mill, in that it goes through its motions without the imposition an ever-imposing demon. The villain of the piece is merely technical complications of an deep-space voyage by a group of astronauts. It’s not futuristic, or even modern for that matter. Though it’s implied to take place in the near future, characters like Sharlto Copley’s talk as if they’re set in the 1980s. Perhaps that’s the film’s dry procedural aspect, which makes it so the characters are largely devoid of personality, all the way to the painstakingly generic end. Still, if released in place of Apollo 15 (or was it 16?), the beleaguering subgenre might be 3% more tolerable. Faint praise, as it should be. (Trailer)
The Smurfs 2 has already been reaping off your kid’s easy excitement for silly, colourful fare, and thus likely folded you into a theater against your will. You have our sympathies, since it may well be the worst thing coming out this week, spoon-feeding kids obvious moral values in severely dumb fashion, not to mention being an unimaginative rehash of the first film. Yet another case of this sequel driven culture sending audiences into perpetual motion. Likewise you might be forgive for look at the trailer for Cockneys vs. Zombies and thinking it a less inspired remake of Shaun of the Dead. Essentially it is that, so just watch Edgar Wright’s aforementioned film and don’t bother with this narratively and culturally geriatric farce.
In spite its numeric title, 2 Guns is not a sequel, but you’ve still probably seen it before. Buddy cop actioner starring Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington. Switch out Washington for Will Ferrell and you’ve got The Other Guys. Switch out Wahlberg for Ethan Hawke and you’ve got Training Day. Rinse and repeat, or you know what? Don’t. Stop seeing this kind of dull repetitive fare and maybe studios will be forced to make something fresh. Eh, it won’t work. Expect $30+ million from 2 Guns this weekend.