You’ve got a lot of options for what to watch and how, and we want to help you plan your weekend with a new column where we’ll highlight three things you can see in theaters, three things you’ll find streaming, and three titles new to home video. Appropriately enough, we call this The Weekend Watch.
IN THEATERS NOW
Talk about a logjam. It almost seems unfair that after finally working out the bankruptcy issues that MGM faced and making it to theaters without the threatened 3D post-conversion, “Cabin In The Woods” now has to face at least nine other releases, some limited, some everywhere. And that doesn’t even take into account the 800 or so screens that are getting “The Raid: Redemption” this weekend for the first time. We ran a review for “The Three Stooges” here, and Geoff Berkshire, who just joined us on Team HitFix, reviewed “Lockout” as well. But here are three films worth some conversation this weekend:
“The Cabin In The Woods”
Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon have made a movie that serves as a deconstruction of an entire subsection of the horror genre, but that also works as a fresh idea in horror. It justifies the genre, and it elevates it. It is a bit of a magic trick, and nothing this clever and meta-aware should be as satisfying as this is, but somehow, they pulled it off. This is one of those rare cases where the two years the film spent on a shelf had absolutely nothing to do with the movie itself, and it is one of those films you need to see now, or you’ll spend the next decade playing catch-up as the film’s cult audience grows. And it will.
Here’s my review of the movie. And this week, we had Geoff Berkshire review it as well.
This one seems to provoke a strong reaction in reviewers, both positive and negative, and I get the feeling that’s what director Joseph Kahn wants. It is loud, slightly deranged, and just as self-aware a genre exercise as “Cabin In The Woods.” The difference is that “Detention” seems to be a movie designed to push your ability to absorb information and ideas in short bursts to the absolute breaking point, and I sort of loved the way it shorted my circuits. It is crazy, no doubt about it, but this is a particular kind of crazy I can get behind.
I’m not really recommending this one, but it is worth highlighting, if only to wonder how it falls so flat. Luc Besson directed, but you’d never know it looking at the picture. In telling the story of Aung San Suu Kyi, a real-life hero who put herself in harm’s way to help bring democracy to Burma, Besson has made a very tasteful, restrained, well-intentioned movie that is a near-total stiff. There’s no pulse to it at all. There are few people who love Michelle Yeoh on film the way I do, and sure enough, she positively glows here. But this is a big fat bag of “and then,” a dry recitation of events without any dramatic shape or heft. I want Besson directing more often, but this feels like empty energy, no matter how worth celebration the real life figure is.
ALSO NEW IN THEATERS THIS WEEK: “Monsieur Lazhar,” “Woman Thou Art Loosed: On The 7th Day,” “Bad Ass,” “Touchback,” “Life Happens,” “Unraveled.”
ON STREAMING THIS WEEK
“Popatopolis” (Netflix Instant)
Jim Wynorski has a total of 90 credits on IMDb as director, starting with “The Lost Empire” in 1985 and going all the way through this year’s “Gila!” I used to see Wynorski a few times a week at least when I was working at Dave’s Video, and he was a great guy, a big movie nerd who bought pretty much everything. He devoured movies. His movies are pure exploitation, full of blood, boobs, beasts, boobs, and even boobs, and he’s unapologetic about it. This week, Netflix added a movie that captured the making of “The Witches Of Breastwick,” and it is the “Hearts Of Darkness” of direct-to-video titty movies. He sets out to make his movie in three days, and director Clay Westervelt uses that framework to look at Wynorski’s place in the industry overall. It’s a pretty honest portrait of a guy working in a self-imposed form of exile, and surprised me.
“Melancholia” (Netflix Instant)
My favorite film of last year is available now, and it’s a gorgeous, heartbreaking attempt to share what depression feels like. It’s a film I’ve seen three times now, and each time, it’s done something different to me. Lars Von Trier is a filmmaker who I find sometimes intoxicating, sometimes infuriating, but he’s never dull. This is, in my opinion, his finest hour, and a shining moment for star Kirsten Dunst as well.
“The Interrupters” (Amazon Instant Video)
This underseen documentary from last year looks at a new idea in how to address street violence, and in looking at the daily operation of CeaseFire, a program designed to try to curb the escalation of conflicts, director Steve James really looks at the powder keg these lit matches keep getting dropped into. It may sound dry, but it’s as charged with tension as any action film I saw last year, and I think it’s the sort of thing you really should see.
ALSO NEW TO STREAMING THIS WEEK: Amazon Instant Video – “Bad Ass,” “Into The Abyss,” “The Sun Came Out,” “Emma,” “Green,” “The Iron Lady,” “The Witches Of Oz,” “The Darkest Hour,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Contraband,” “Albert Nobbs,” “Pariah,” “A Bird of The Air,” “The Conquest” Netflix Instant – “Weeds: Season 6,” “American Dad,” “Into The Abyss,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Soulja Boy: the Movie,” “Rampage,” “The Conspirator.”
ON HOME VIDEO THIS WEEK
“Dark Shadows – The Complete Original Series”
131 discs. I repeat. 131 discs. Not episodes. Discs. This is a preposterous box set, an avalanche of wackadoo soap opera with vampires and witches and werewolves and ghosts. I honestly don’t get the fandom, but I get that there are fans, and for them, this has got to feel like Christmas in a box. If you’re one of the devoted, then I sincerely hope you were able to get one of these limited editions before they vanished.
“Into The Abyss”
Werner Herzog does not believe in the death penalty, and this documentary takes a sober-minded look at the entire system. It’s not remotely preachy because Herzog has confidence in his point of view. He just presents these stories, shows you these interviews, and it’s cumulatively upsetting. When Herzog is on his game, he’s one of the best documentarians working, and it’s because he doesn’t ask questions anyone else would ask. He comes at these stories from such a particular place, such a personal point of view, and he is able to draw people out. I can’t call this a feel-good movie, but it’s worth seeing no matter what your position on the issue Herzog’s discussing.
“A Streetcar Named Desire” (Blu-ray)
Many classics reach a point of ossification, frozen in time, and they just can’t pack the same punch seen out of their era. That is most decidedly not the case with Elia Kazan’s film version of the Tennessee Williams play. Part of that is just because of the explosive work Marlon Brando does as Stanley, but I’d give at least as much credit to Vivien Leigh’s work, harrowing and brittle and evocative. I’ve seen this film so many times over the years, but every experience I have with it, I am astonished at just how raw and painful it is. Modern film acting began here, and there is a reason it cast such a major shadow over the entire art form.
ALSO NEW TO VIDEO THIS WEEK: DVD – “Astonishing X-Men – Dangerous,” “The Darkest Hour,” “Donald Glover- Weirdo,” “The Iron Lady,” “Night Gallery: Season Three,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “The Witches of Oz” Blu-Ray – “Bounce,” “The Boy In Blue,” “Don Juan DeMarco,” “Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except,” “A Trip To The Moon”
“The Weekend Watch” appears here every Friday.