Chris Pine Feature

Some Movies to See this Weekend, January 29, 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016 Rob Samuelson

Studio burn-off time is (hopefully) almost at its end, folks. This January has been a less-than-stellar month for the moviegoing experience, which is generally the case every January. However, there are at least a couple possibly promising releases hitting theaters this weekend. Plus, in a week's time, we get a new Coen brothers movie. Bring on February, Hollywood.

Fifty Shades of Black
Director: Michael Tiddes
Writers: Rick Alvarez, Marlon Wayans
Starring: Marlon Wayans, Kali Hawk, Fred Willard

You know what's a funny flick? Scary Movie. Most of the titles ending with Movie since have unfortunately been under the purview of a pair of filmmakers, Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg, whose style we can charitably call “not artful.” Their entire schtick is putting actors with something akin to comedic timing in situations that repeat, almost beat for beat, moments from recently popular films and expect you to think they're funny. Marlon Wayans, however, was behind Scary Movie, and the guy knows how to make me laugh – The Wayans Bros. TV show was a regular in the Samuelson household as I was growing up. He recently returned to the spoof racket. This time around, he's taking on the look, feel, and sometimes the exact lines from Fifty Shades of Grey. It looks a little dire. Please, Mr. Wayans, do not do the dreadful thing your successors did. “Isn't it hilarious that this thing I'm referencing exists?” is not humor.

The Finest Hours
Director: Craig Gillespie
Writers: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
Starring: Chris Pine, Holliday Grainger, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Eric Bana

It's rarely a good sign to see something like this, a prestigious heroism movie, open in the early months of the year. However, The Finest Hours still has those prestigious heroism trappings, with a 1950s-set story about a Coast Guard crew setting out in the middle of a particularly rough storm to save people from sinking oil tankers. It's led by Chris Pine, appearing to shed his cocky Captain Kirk persona for something more earnest here, plus ringers like Casey Affleck and Eric Bana support. Director Craig Gillespie (Fright Night) has a workmanlike, professional sheen to the stuff he makes. With the Disney live-action machine behind him, there's a lot of promise for a handsome, possibly tragic story about bravery in the face of great danger.

Kung Fu Panda 3
Directors: Alessandro Carloni, Jennifer Yuh
Writers: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Starring: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons

I'm not the audience for this one. I've never seen a Kung Fu Panda movie, although I've heard encouraging things. The third one's trailer features a bunch of cute, fat pandas ruining Jack Black's heroic panda's attack plans by eating a bunch of dumplings meant to portray troop movements. If that's not cute to you, I don't know what can warm your frigid heart. The voice cast is remarkably talented and it's a series of adventures families have loved quite a bit in the last several years. If you've got kids, this is likely a solid way to spend some time with them.

Jane Got a Gun
Director: Gavin O'Connor
Writers: Brian Duffield, Anthony Tambakis, Joel Edgerton
Starring: Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor, Rodrigo Santoro, Noah Emmerich

This one has walked a torturous path to reach the big screen. It was seemingly in production forever, as directors and multiple stars joined and left several times. Jane Got a Gun is the story of a former western outlaw gang member (Natalie Portman) whose past catches up with her. She turns to her former lover, played by Joel Edgerton – who was originally cast as the film's villain but later moved to replace two other stars, Michael Fassbender and Jude Law, in this role – for help in fending off the attacks of Ewan McGregor's villain. It's a western, and I love those. However, if the trailer is any indication, all the behind-the-scenes shuffling – We Need to Talk about Kevin filmmaker Lynne Ramsay left amid some fights with the studio – did not result in the right fit. It looks a little cheap, with some weird slow-mo shots that are a little choppy. Hopefully it's not, but this one inspires less than supreme confidence.

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