1. Pixels (Sony/Columbia, 3,723 Theaters, 105 Minutes, Rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive comments, Rotten Tomatoes rating at press time: 20% Fresh [84 Reviews]):When this high concept film was announced, we knew that the right approach to the material had to be made. After all, the plot of aliens responding to a tape of video games being played as an act of war and sending weaponized versions of the video game characters in order to destroy Earth is one that could come off as either campy genius or completely and utterly stupid.
The fact that the film would come from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison production company pointed towards the latter. However, having Chris Columbus, he of Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, and the first two Harry Potter movies, direct the film seem a step in the right direction.
Of course, the final product has Kevin James as President of the United States and Peter Dinklage in a mullet. With that as an example of the film’s wit, no wonder it has been getting the reviews it has.
2. Paper Towns (Fox, 3,031 Theaters, 109 Minutes, Rated PG-13 for some language, drinking, sexuality and partial nudity – all involving teens, Rotten Tomatoes rating as of press time: 59% Fresh [58 Reviews]): Quentin once had a childhood crush on his neighbor Margo. That has all but passed, but there’s enough of it around that when Margo steals into Quentin’s bedroom at night and asks for his help in a quest for revenge, he is more than happy to oblige.
Quentin is interested in renewing his friendship with Margo the next day at school, but she never shows. When she doesn’t show for the next few days and is declared missing, Quentin enlist his friends to try and find her. During the investigation, Quentin, quoting Alan Jackson, learns “a lot about livin’ and a little ’bout love.”
If this premise seems a bit far fetched or loopy, it really doesn’t matter. This film is adapted from a John Green novel, and the cult that surrounds him will make this one a hit.
3. Southpaw (The Weinstein Company, 2,772 Theaters, 123 Minutes, Rated R for language throughout, and some violence, Rotten Tomatoes rating at press time: 54% Fresh [110 Reviews]): The boxing movie as a Cinderella story. Rocky started it, and it continued it through Cinderella Man, The Fighter and others. It has become a time honored trope, so much that it is hard to bring anything new to it. Director Antoine Fuqua, of Training Day fame, and writer Kurt Sutter, the man who brought you Sons of Anarchy, decide to go grim and gritty with their take on the genre.
Boxer Billy Hope had it all. He held the Light Heavyweight Title, he had money, a beautiful wife, and awesome kid and a life that many other people would envy. Unfortunately, a public brawl between him and a rival boxer ends with his wife dead. This starts Billy on a downward spiral where he loses everything else. When he hits bottom, he needs to find the strength to pull himself back up and become the man who will be able to take care of his daughter.
Even with the new angles added, the story seems formulaic. But this one might be worth a look, as Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is already getting Oscar buzz, something almost unheard of this time of year.