film Jesse Owens

Some Movies to See This Weekend, February 19, 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016 Rob Samuelson

We're cooking with gas, folks. Well, sort of. There are two for-sure exciting releases this weekend and one dubious one. Two out of three is a pretty good day at the ballpark, so it's a pretty good night at the movies, too. Right? Whatever. I've dragged this out long enough. But whatever, the Cubs officially open Spring Training today. It's on my mind. I refuse to apologize!

Right, movies. Here they are.

Director: Stephen Hopkins
Writers: Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse
Starring: Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Eli Goree, Shanice Banton, Carice van Houten

Stephan James, who was terrific as a coming-of-age Rep. John Lewis in Selma, now gets to take center stage as Jesse Owens. Thankfully, director Stephen Hopkins and co-writers Joe Shrapnel (the best writer in Hollywood based on his name alone) and Anna Waterhouse appear to have focused on the brief period when Owens made history and humiliated the Nazis at the 1936 Olympics in Germany. There are worse feelings to have at the movies than patriotism, right? Plus Jason Sudeikis plays Owens's coach, Larry Snyder, and Game of Thrones' Carice van Houten gets to bring her easy, charismatic evil skills to the big screen as Leni Riefenstahl.

If there is a reason to tap the breaks on the excitement for this, it's director Hopkins's resume. He's done lots of TV work in the last decade-plus, but being reminded of Lost in Space on his IMDb page does not inspire much confidence. Hopefully he's learned a thing or two since trying to turn Matt LeBlanc into Han Solo.

Director: Kevin Reynolds
Writers: Kevin Reynolds, Paul Aiello
Starring: Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, Peter Firth, Cliff Curtis, MarĂ­a Botto

This one has a nifty premise, turning the resurrection of Jesus Christ into a gritty detective thriller. It features former Shakespeare and soon-to-be Michael Jackson Joseph Fiennes as a Roman soldier charged with guarding the tomb of the crucified religious leader. But the body disappears anyway, so he takes his deputy, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), on a trip to find out what happened. The trailer has the right kind of atmosphere, but color me skeptical about its prospects for quality.

For one thing, director Kevin Reynolds is the man behind Waterworld and Tristan + Isolde. These are not things that would make humanity proud if they happened to be the only surviving artifacts found by an alien race long after our extinction. But hey, you never know. If you haven't been to church in a while and you're feeling guilty, go to your secular Mass and grab some religious flavor while you're at it. Because if there's one thing Jesus loves, it's efficiency.

The Witch
Director: Robert Eggers
Writer: Robert Eggers
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson

And now, the big, important one for the week. The Witch has been one of my most anticipated movies of 2016 since I heard word about it from last year's Sundance Film Festival. Costume designer and art director Robert Eggers makes his feature writing-directing debut on this colonial parable about a family banished from their religious sanctuary for being too committed to the cause. They move to their own secluded place in the woods and bad things start happening. Plus there's a devious goat hanging around with the name of Black Phillip. Something supernatural and evil is afoot. And it looks and sounds utterly terrific.

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