Alicia Vikander Domhnall Gleeson

Some Movies to See This Weekend, April 17, 2015

Friday, April 17, 2015 Rob Samuelson

Holy moly. There are seven (!) movies premiering in the Chicago area this weekend. Some are expanding after initial New York-Los Angeles debuts and others are opening wide. Either way, you have a bevy of choices when deciding what to see this weekend. There's historical fiction, heady sci-fi, broad-as-can-be comedy, ripped-from-the-headlines drama, a nature documentary with voiceover work from one of our most beloved national comic treasures, and plenty more. Let's take a deeper look.

Child 44
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Writer: Richard Price
Starring: Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace

Putin's Russia ain't happy about this one, so that's reason enough to go see it. Tom Hardy stars as a Russian investigator searching for a serial child murderer and any surviving kids. There's a coverup going on because of the government refusing to let the people know about their overseers being unable to protect them. There are shades of Fritz Lang's M here, and if that similarity bears out for the entire film, let's just start celebrating now.

This is as nit picky as it gets, but the only problem I have with this movie is the “let's just have the actors speak in English with Russian accents despite it taking place in Russia!” trick. This has been done since time immemorial, but for some reason it feels less authentic in recent years. This has no bearing on whether the story is told in a compelling fashion, but it bugs me. I suck.

Monkey Kingdom
Directors: Mark Linfield, Alistair Fothergill
Narrated By: Tina Fey

30 Rock's Tina Fey, one of the most important comedic voices of the last 20 years, narrates a documentary about monkeys. Sure, it's an earnest Disney thing, but either way, 'nuff said.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
Director: Andy Fickman
Writers: Kevin James, Nick Bakay
Starring: Kevin James, Raini Rodriguez, Eduardo Verástegui

Call me an elitist, but I'm not excited by this one. Even if I weren't a snob, this one would be difficult to recommend. The ol' “fatty go boom” jokes ran dry about 20 minutes into the first Paul Blart movie, which I have indeed seen. I may have been hungover and trying to study for a test while it was on TV, but that's beside the point. It's not the type of movie that requires a boatload of attention to understand.

Mr. Blart, mall cop extraordinaire, returns this time, but now he's on vacation in Las Vegas for some reason. Doesn't matter. Either way, this takes the Die Hard sequel route of “how could this happen again?!” plotting and Paul is forced to stop a sort of terrorist attack on the city. Fatty go boom.

True Story
Director: Rupert Goold
Writer: Rupert Goold
Starring: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Felicity Jones

This one's neat. While Franco and Hill are frequent collaborators, to date they have only appeared together in comedies. Both are strong dramatic actors – Franco has been in tons of great dramas and Hill has branched out in recent years with supporting roles in Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street – but until now they have kept those worlds separate when together. Now, though, they show up as an imprisoned murderer (Franco) and a down-on-his-luck journalist (Hill) trying to learn the real story behind why Franco's wife and children are dead. Expect a lot of chemistry and give-and-take.

Director: Leo Gabriadze
Writer: Nelson Greaves
Starring: Heather Sossaman, Matthew Bohrer, Courtney Halverson

A few weeks back, a movie called A Girl Like Her was released. It lasted a week in theaters. Nobody went to see it. Now, in an Armageddon-Deep Impact bit of coincidence, out comes another webcam/bullying drama. This time, though, there's a horror hook. It takes place on the two-year anniversary of the suicide by a girl, Laura Barns, who became despondent after video of her becoming excessively drunk at a party was posted across social media for everyone she knew to see. Now, her friends (?) get together for a group chat on their computers – it looks to be entirely shot on webcams – and supernatural things start happening to them. Bad supernatural things. Let's see how long this one lasts.

Clouds of Sils Maria
Director: Olivier Assayas
Writer: Olivier Assayas
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloe Grace Moretz

In a modern update on All About Eve, Juliette Binoche stars as a famous, if fading, middle-aged actress returning to the property that made her a star in the first place. This time, though, she's playing the older lead, with an upstart, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, taking her original role. Writer-director Assayas has a heck of a reputation – full disclosure: I haven't seen his work, although his South American terrorist miniseries, Carlos, has been in my Netflix queue for some time, so I'm TRYING – and anything involving Binoche, Stewart (in non-Twilight roles, she typically knocks it out of the park), and Moretz is worth seeing.

Ex Machina
Director: Alex Garland
Writer: Alex Garland
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac

Sight unseen, I am calling it now: this is the movie of the weekend. Maybe of the month. Perhaps, if some of the praise I've heard for it finds its way into my own opinion, one of the best of the year. Gleeson and Isaac have been on the rise these last few years, and Vikander could be the breakout actress of 2015 after roles in this, the not-good-but-not-completely-horrible-but-that's-not-Vikander's-fault Seventh Son, and the upcoming The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Following in the footsteps of movies like last year's The One I Love, writer-director Alex Garland, a frequent Danny Boyle collaborator, places a small number of actors in a confined space to play out science fiction moral quandaries. This one in particular deals with our relationship and anxiety toward artificial intelligence, with Vikander playing a robot created by Isaac.  

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