Dev Patel film

Some Movies to See This Weekend, March 6, 2015

Friday, March 06, 2015 Rob Samuelson

Say what you will about Hollywood's supposed lack of originality or “vision,” they sure know how to hit multiple marks when they need to. This week's releases are all over the map to the point where seemingly anyone with any interest can find something to latch onto. There's a sci-fi heart wrencher, a “who'd'a thunk it” sequel to a prim and proper old person (literally) movie, and a vulgar comedy from the crown prince of talking really, really fast.

Director: Neill Blomkamp
Writers: Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Ninja, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver

In a play on E.T. and The Iron Giant, Neill Blomkamp (the Oscar-nominated District 9, the not-Oscar-nominated Elysium) crafts a sci-fi action flick with heart, about a scientist (Patel) who creates an artificially intelligent robot named Chappie (Copley, also of Blomkamp's previous two features). The government, in the form of Sigourney Weaver and Hugh Jackman's eighties hockey player hair, doesn't want Chappie around because of “the end of the human race” and “the machines taking over” and “singularity,” blah, blah, blah. But Chappie just wants to learn, folks, and watch He-Man cartoons, and, and, talk with a really irritating speech pattern!

It's stuff like Copley's precious performance – admittedly only seen in the trailers, so grains of salt apply – that make this a possible disaster. Blomkamp went from our newest genre auteur, with Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson comparisons tossed around liberally during the 2009 Oscar season, to a guy who (badly) needs a return to form after the poorly received – I haven't seen it, so I'm merely reporting the cultural narrative as I find it – Elysium a couple years later. On-the-nose social commentary seems to be his thing, so he needs to find ways to make the medicine go down, and his little robot buddy movie might just do the trick.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Director: John Madden
Writer: Ol Parker
Starring: Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, David Strathairn, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Richard Gere

This is one of the unlikelier franchises in recent years, about a hotel full of people who are close to death. LOLs abound! In this meta sequel, the old people and their young, must-be-completely-overworked caretaker, played by Patel – what a busy weekend for him – open a chain of hotels in the vein of the one from the first movie. This time, though, sexy gray hair Richard Gere is along for the ride, probably full of stories about taking hookers from rags to riches. It looks like a light crowd pleaser, which is what we need after the dreary post-holidays months.

Unfinished Business
Director: Ken Scott
Writer: Steve Conrad
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson, Dave Franco

This one might actually be the likeliest culprit for a return to form of the weekend. Vince Vaughn has been in the wilderness a little bit since the Wedding Crashers heyday, with plenty of poorly received comedies with touches of drama or simply comedies that were not funny. His response? Let his blackhearted freak flag fly in a ribald road trip comedy with one of our greatest living character actors – seriously, Wilkinson is coming off playing President Lyndon Johnson in Selma, and now here he is describing heinous sex acts and ingesting copious amounts of drugs – and James Franco's goofier (and funnier) younger brother Dave.

Their startup (it doesn't matter what they sell or service they provide) is in competition for a client with Vaughn's former employers, so they make it a contest to see who can make the client have the most raucous fun. There are no hidden agendas about how Vaughn wants to, say, take care of all of his sperm donated kids or anything, just pure gonzo comedy. That's cause for celebration 'round these parts.

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