Beyond the Lights Dumb and Dumber To

Some Movies Out This Weekend, November 14, 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014 Rob Samuelson

There are some big ones opening this weekend, folks. There's the off kilter romance, the decades later comedy sequel, the dramatic feature film directing debut by one of our least dramatic media figures, and another dramatic turn – zany makeup and all – from a guy best known for being America's dumb boss. And that's not even everything. As usual, there's so much to see this weekend at the movies.

Beyond the Lights
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Writer: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver, Danny Glover

From a surface glance, this looks like an case of Lifetime's influence stretching to a wide Hollywood release. But for every moment that could be an overwrought mess – in the trailer, at least – it is underplayed. There doesn't seem to be much over acting going on in this enterprise, which is a sign of a good cast.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays a pop star in the Rihanna/Britney Spears mold, with a domineering stage mom played by Minnie Driver. In a bout of depression, she tries to commit suicide, but before she can jump from her hotel balcony, a police officer, played by Parker, grabs her. Then they fall in love.

This sounds dreadful on paper, but there's something going on in this short preview that's enticing. The mismatched couple, the means by which they met, and ideas about duty and ethics are present. That doesn't mean the movie will explore these themes, or explore them well, but it's ripe for drama.

Dumb and Dumber To
Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Writers: Sean Anders, Mike Cerrone, Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, John Morris, Bennett Yellin
Starring: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Rob Riggle

The sequel I've been clamoring for since I was five years old is finally here. Harry (Daniels) and Lloyd (Carrey) reunite 20 years after their last adventure to Aspen, “California,” which formed the basis for one of the most re-watched movies of my life. Turns out Harry has a daughter he never knew about, and she might be able to help him out with a kidney. He and Lloyd, who is “hot for [Harry's] daughter,” try to find her.

Could be good, right? I sure hope so. I really do love the original. It was one of those movies I snuck my way into watching with my older cousins when I shouldn't have been allowed, and it has stuck with me, probably because I watch it about once a year. But I have seen the trailers too many times. It's one of those weird situations where, if you go to the movies enough, you get stuck with that one film whose preview you see before everything. I can't get that “na na na na” song out of my head, no matter how many times I plead with my brain. And sadly, the trailers all seem to be the same jokes as the first movie, but said in different locations. But I'm holding out hope the rest of the movie has new material to offer.

Director: Bennett Miller
Writers: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman
Starring: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo

Bennett Miller has made two of the best films of the last 10 years. Capote may mostly be remembered for Philip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar-winning inhabitation of Truman Capote, but there is some astonishing, austere filmmaking on Miller's part that opens the film up to being more than an acting showcase. Same thing with Moneyball, based on a book about the least cinematic part of baseball: the analytics. Miller made a movie about mindfulness, fatherhood, and outside-the-box thinking that is one of my favorite sports movies.

And now here we are with his third non-documentary, a based-on-a-true-story drama about an mentally unstable multimillionaire John du Pont and his unhinged foray into funding a wrestling team in the 1990s. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo play brothers, with Tatum being the Foxcatcher Wrestling top prospect and Ruffalo his trainer. There's some disturbing stuff on display in the trailer, and Carrel is in a neat transition in his career where he's developing into a pure character actor rather than a comedic heavy hitter. I'm very excited for this one.

Director: Jon Stewart
Writer: Jon Stewart
Starring: Gael García Bernal, Kim Bodnia, Dimitri Leonidas

In a roundabout way, Rosewater is responsible for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – if Stewart hadn't been off shooting this movie last summer, Oliver would not have filled in at the Daily Show desk and likely wouldn't have been offered the HBO gig, which is one of the best and most unexpected places for investigative journalism in television – so I am already eternally thankful for its existence.

Now, whether Stewart has the chops to direct a movie, let alone one not in his comedic wheelhouse, I can't be sure. But he has brought with him Gael García Bernal, whose turns in The Motorcycle Diaries, Y Tu Mamá También, and The Crime of Father Amaro, among others, have made him one of the strongest actors of his generation. Rosewater's story – a journalist is kidnapped while covering the failed Iranian “Green Revolution” and held by government forces because of trumped up charges he may be a spy – is a harrowing one. We'll see if the king of late night satire can make this work.

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