Weekend Openings: Oscar Hopefuls Litter the Holiday Weekend

This weekend, a ton of Oscar contenders are finally hitting screens. The new releases are supported by expansions, including for Denzel Washington‘s film “Fences.” Technically, Sunday also brings the release of “20th Century Women,” “Hidden Figures,” “Live by Night” and “Toni Erdmann,” but they’ll be handled in next week’s column. In addition, “La La Land” expands to wide release on Christmas. For today, there are still plenty of awards hopefuls coming your way. Almost every genre is represented in this slate, which is always nice. Some are decidedly not hopefuls for anything but box office glory, but that’s the name of the holiday season game.

Take a look below at what cinemas have to offer and make sure to see some movies over the holidays!

Best Bet This Week

Patriots Day” (Lionsgate)

An emotional and rousing action drama from Peter Berg, it again marks a successful collaboration with Mark Wahlberg. Furthermore, it ultimately winds up as one of the best films of 2016, worthy of top 10 consideration. Clayton is a big fan of this procedural, which is as thrilling as it is heartbreaking. The Academy may or may not go for it, but that’s almost besides the point here. Fair warning, the film is an emotional one and crying may occur. If it’s playing near you, this is the week’s best bet by far and well worth making an effort to see.

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 80%
Oscar Hopes – A potential contender in a handful of categories
Screen Count – 7 Screens (Platform Release)

Also Opening of Note

Assassin’s Creed” (20th Century Fox)

Yet another video game adaptation that falls flat on its face, this one has the added indignity of wasting a ton of talent. As depicted in our review, it’s just a misfire on every level possible. Michael Fassbender, along with Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, and more, should be ashamed of themselves. With options galore, this is what they chose to waste their talents on. Fassbender especially deserves some blame, as he produced and helped select his “Macbeth” filmmaker Justin Kurzel as the director here. Nothing works and it’s damn near an embarrassment. Fans of the game franchise would do well to stay home and play one of the installments instead. Non-fans should just not bother.

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 18%
Oscar Hopes – No sir
Screen Count – 2,902 Screens

A Monster Calls” (Focus Features)

An unusual coming-of-age tale, this book adaptation threads a very tough needle with grace. Director J.A. Bayona has crafted a very well made film, as our review on the site states. One of two works this weekend featuring Liam Neeson in a supporting role, it’s a strange animal. Too intense for kids but possibly a shade too simple to be strictly for adults, it could have a hard road ahead finding an audience. Adventurous folks who seek it out will find something compelling though, no doubt about it. Felicity Jones could break your heart, along with young star Lewis MacDougall.

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 87%
Oscar Hopes – Unlikely now
Screen Count – 4 Screens (Platform Release)

Passengers” (Sony/Columbia Pictures)

Our review here on the site is one of the few positive ones for this science fiction romance. Once upon a time, this was one of the more interesting Oscar hopefuls, but now, that ship has sailed. The pairing of Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt generates sparks, though a third of the film is just Pratt on a giant empty vessel. The moral quandary at the center of the flick has taken over the conversation and has likely torpedoed it for some, though it’s far more complex than that. For mainstream entertainment and a would-be blockbuster, the first two acts are decidedly indie. It gets silly in the end, but it’s the best wide release option this weekend. Fans of the pair will probably dig their chemistry together, if nothing else.

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 31%
Oscar Hopes – Pretty unlikely now
Screen Count – 3,478 Screens

Silence” (Paramount Pictures)

This passion project from Martin Scorsese is an Academy Award player, yes, but it’s much more than that. As one of the Oscar hopefuls, it’ll get judged as such, though that will be fairly reductive. This meditation on faith and the presence of a higher power/their lack of physical interaction will certainly strike a chord with some. Clayton loved it and you very well might, too. It’ll be interesting to see what Oscar thinks of it, but just as fascinating will be if audiences flock to it or not. This is very different from almost anything in Scorsese’s catalogue. It’s worth seeing, but keep your expectations for “Silence” in check somewhat.

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 94%
Oscar Hopes – A contender across the board
Screen Count – 4 Screens (Platform Release)

Why Him” (20th Century Fox)

A raunchy family comedy (though decidedly not a comedy for families) with a pretty solid cast, this has nonetheless fallen victim to indifferent reviews. Putting Bryan Cranston up as a straitlaced father against a gonzo James Franco probably should have generated more laughs. The secret MVP is Keegan-Michael Key, which is not an uncommon occurrence these days. Furthermore, most reviews indicate that there are funny scenes. Still, it sounds like an overall disappointment. If you’re looking to avoid the prestige awards hopefuls, something like this could have a place. It’s the lightest of the wide release options, so there’s that as well.

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 35%
Oscar Hopes – Nope
Screen Count – 2,800 Screens

The Rest

  • “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” (IFC)
  • I, Daniel Blake” (Sundance Selects)
  • Julieta” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • “Sing” (Universal)

What will you be watching at the movies this weekend? Discuss it in the comments below!