1. Blair Witch (Lionsgate, 3,121 Theaters, 89 Minutes, Rated R for language, terror and some disturbing images, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating at press time: 42% Fresh [101 Reviews]): The Blair Witch Project was like catching a lightning in a bottle. For those of you too young to remember, the film was one of the most talked about films of 1999, where friends implored one another to see it. It was a ratty, amateurish $60,000 film that totally sold the idea that the film was footage found in the woods. And when it made over $248 million at the box office, it launched the “found footage” trend in horror.
When a film is that successful, a sequel is guaranteed. And it got one in 2000 with Book of Shadows: The Blair Witch 2. Sharing neither tone nor the storytelling techniques of the original, it seemed more like a cash grab than a continuation of the first. While profitable, it left a bad taste in fans’ mouths, and would eventually be removed from canon of the franchise.
Sixteen years later, we get this film, the first “true” sequel to the original. It follows a man who is the brother of the woman from the first film, returning to the Black Hills woods to see if she is still alive. It seems like a slicker, updated version of the first film (they have GPS…and drones!), which could be either good or bad depending on your point of view. It is long enough after Book of Shadows that most bad memories of that film should have subsided. But it might also be too far away that the zeitgeist of the original is lost.
2. Bridget Jones’ Baby (Universal, 2,927 Theaters, 124 Minutes, Rated R for language, sex references and some nudity. Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating at press time: 78% Fresh [121 Reviews]): In another long in coming sequel from a franchise that caused a media frenzy, the Bridget Jones franchise returns to the screen after a 12-year absence.
Based on Helen Fielding’s incredibly popular series of novels, Bridget (Renee Zellweger) this time around has a different quandary that her typical affairs of the heart. She’s pregnant and she doesn’t know who the father is. She’s narrowed it down to two: a hunky American businessman (Patrick Dempsey) or her on again/off again paramour Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth). Hilarity ensues as both men jockey for favored nation status as the support her through her pregnancy.
I’m not a big fan of the franchise–never read the books nor seen the two previous films–but I found myself laughing out loud a number of times at the trailer below. Take that as you will.
3. Snowden (Open Road Films, 2,443 Theaters, 134 Minutes, Rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating at press time: 58% Fresh [111 Reviews]): To say that Edward Snowden is a polarizing figure would be an understatement of gigantic proportions. When he leaked proof of the NSA global surveillance operation, some consider him a hero for finally letting us know that the government was spying on us. Others consider him a traitor that seriously hampered how effectively we fight the war on terror.
Which Snowden does this film show us? Well, the director is Oliver Stone, the man who made a film saying that the government killed a standing American president, so guess which version we are getting. And if you say anything other than “hero” it doesn’t count.
As is the case with Stone’s films, we get a cast full of A-listers. But if you hate Snowden and all he stands for, maybe you should skip this one.