Carey Mulligan Far from the Madding Crowd

Some Movies to See this Weekend, May 8, 2015

Friday, May 08, 2015 Rob Samuelson

This week is a bit of a breath collection one for Hollywood. We're getting three new releases, but they're all of the counter programming variety. Two (relatively) low budget comedies and an arthouse adaptation of a classic novel don't stand much chance of unseating the Marvel juggernaut, Avengers: Age of Ultron, from the top box office spot. Next week, with Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road opening, these three movies might get lost in the summer shuffle. Never mind all that, though, because there is something worthwhile in each of these. Take a trip to the theater and let us know what you think of these new flicks.

The D Train
Directors: Andrew Mogel, Jarrad Paul
Writers: Andrew Mogel, Jarrad Paul
Starring: Jack Black, James Marsden, Kathryn Hahn

Jack Black tries to organize a 20-year high school reunion without much luck. As fate would have it, he recognizes a former classmate, played by James Marsden, in a crummy late night commercial. Obviously this means someone from their class “made it,” and Black can convince everyone to attend for a night of nostalgia and revelry.

But first, Black has to convince Marsden to go. This is where hijinks get involved. You can see many of them in the trailer above. The two actors seem game for the silliness, and Black has gone in a strong direction the last few years with Bernie and spots on Comedy Central's Drunk History. As he ages, he's moving away from the loud party boy persona into a put-upon schlub with something manic underneath, almost like an unhinged Jack Lemon.

Hot Pursuit
Director: Anne Fletcher
Writers: David Feeney, John Quaintance
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara

The buddy cop comedy has fallen in popularity the last few years. It probably needed to take a rest, but that doesn't mean the core components – a mismatched pair being forced to work together to tackle a comedically large legal problem – can't be tweaked in certain ways to make the sub genre feel fresh.

I'm not saying casting Reese Witherspoon as a straight-laced cop and Sofia Vergara as a drug kingpin's wife will do the genre revival trick, but these are two talented, funny performers. Witherspoon has a chance to show off her range after her Oscar-worthy turn in last year's Wild. That time, she dealt with colossal loss and poor coping mechanisms leading to terrible decision making. This time, she's the type who never does anything wrong, so that 180 is itself fun. Vergara gets to utilize her wacky Lucille Ball side here, too, with a plot line that involves Witherspoon protecting Vergara from dirty cops in her department. These are good signs. Whether it will work, I'm not sure, but it seems worth seeing.

Far from the Madding Crowd
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Writer: David Nicholls
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge

This adaptation of Thomas Hardy's 1874 novel sees a top cast going all out to tell a story of a woman struggling to make her own decisions when placed against a society that doesn't want to let her. Carey Mulligan (Drive, Inside Llewyn Davis) stars as Bathsheba, one of literature's greatest names, who navigates the courtship practices of 1800s England and finds herself flustered. There is love to be found, but perhaps it's fleeting or contingent upon unhealthy compromises.

But more importantly is the filmmaking on display in the trailers for Far from the Madding Crowd. Director Thomas Vinterberg chose to shoot much of the film in rural England to show off the weather, the sunsets, the clouds, and plenty more. It's beautiful stuff and a wonderful backdrop to an old-style Hollywood romance.  

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