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Some Movies to See This Weekend: January 8, 2016

Friday, January 08, 2016 Rob Samuelson

After the end-of-year rush to get so many movies into theaters, Hollywood is taking it easy this week in quantity and likely quality, too, given that we have reached the month on the calendar the industry dumps a lot of garbage. There is only one new wide release and another limited engagement. That's it. It makes this simple. So thank you, Hollywood. You're doing me a favor. Let's see what's hitting theaters.

The Forest
Director: Jason Zada
Writers: Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell, Ben Ketai
Starring: Natalie Dormer, Eoin Macken, Stephanie Vogt

Natalie Dormer has been a standout on Game of Thrones for a few years ago as a character who is a manipulative string puller who just happens to want to pull strings to help the poor and downtrodden of that world. She was also a striking, fundamentally cool presence as the militant filmmaker in the last couple Hunger Games movies. She's probably overdue for a chance at stardom given the solid work she's done for years now, and The Forest looks like the beginning of that actually happening. It's a spooky idea, with Dormer going to a Japanese forest legendary for being a place where people commit ritualistic suicide in order to search for her sister, who has gone missing in it. That's a heck of a premise and the trailer does a good job of ratcheting up the horror quotient. Like I wrote above, this being a January release is not a good sign for its quality, but everything I've seen about this have me more than a little intrigued by it, perhaps even excited.

The Masked Saint
Director: Warren P. Sonada
Writers: Scott Crowell, Brett Granstaff
Starring: Brett Granstaff, Lara Jean Chorostecki, T.J. McGibbon, Roddy Piper

Have you ever looked at a young child with not-so-great social skills – and maybe a penchant for loving bugs – and thought, “Oh no, this poor kid's going to be eaten alive by school?” That was the same thought I had when I saw the trailer for The Masked Saint. In it, we have a masked wrestler hurt in the ring who leaves wrestling behind to become an evangelical pastor in an inner-city neighborhood. So far, a little silly but fine. I'm with you, movie. But when the thugs around the neighborhood begin beating people up for praying – seriously, “Are you praying?!” is followed by a beatdown in the trailer – The Masked Saint must suit back up for action. It's religious Batman. And it looks painful. This is the type of movie that turns into a midnight mock-a-palooza. Maybe it'll be a surprise masterpiece, but the odds of that are not likely. Religious people need some movies for them that are not groaners or older than their grandparents. The Passion of Joan of Arc is a top-10 film of all time and everyone should see it, but 1928 was long ago – perhaps some new movies could treat the religious in non-pandering ways, too. The Masked Saint is, almost assuredly, not going to be that movie.

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