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Weekend Openings: An ‘Arrival’ for ‘Billy Lynn’ and Zoe Kazan

This weekend, we have a really nice assortment of new releases. For one, sci-fi fans get a treat with the release of “Arrival.” Independent cinema hounds have a riveting Zoe Kazan performance to bite into. There’s also “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” limping into theaters, among other titles of note. This is another week that suggests just how deep into Oscar season we truly are. Before long, the contenders will separate from the pretenders with precursors. Furthermore, Academy players will start to have box office numbers in their favor. For now though, it’s still early. We have a strong weekend slate to sift through, so let’s get started!

Best Bet This Week

Arrival” (Paramount)

arrival-smokeSerious science fiction gets its due this weekend with Denis Villeneuve‘s latest. In much the same way that he put a different spin on things with “Prisoners” and “Sicario,” he does that again here. This sci-fi drama stars Amy Adams and certainly hopes to attract fans of other genre outings like “Contact” and “Interstellar.” Clayton called “Arrival” in his review “a masterclass in filmmaking,” which is high praise. With a nearly perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes as well, it’s certainly one of the year’s better received studio efforts. In addition, it seems like a potentially strong Oscar contender, which isn’t always the case with sci-fi. Many absolutely love it, and even those who only like it almost assuredly will concede that it’s the top option opening this weekend. All in all, it’s a must see.

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 96%
Oscar Hopes – A potential player across the board
Screen Count – 2,200 Screens

Also Opening of Note

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” (TriStar)

Joe AlwynJust a few months ago, this war drama was pegged to challenge “La La Land” for Best Picture. Then, that notorious New York Film Festival debut happened. Suddenly, awards talk went out the window for Ang Lee‘s latest. Clayton’s review out of the festival posited that the film “focuses on technology and nothing else,” which is a sentiment that’s easy to agree with. Some of the performances, including newcomer Joe Alwyn‘s and Kristen Stewart‘s, are solid, but the whole movie is just missing something. The groundbreaking format works during the centerpiece battle sequence/halftime show, but fails during any supposed character building moment. It’s worth seeing as a curiosity, but that’s about it.

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 50%
Oscar Hopes – Just on the technical category side
Screen Count – 2 Screens (Platform Release)

“Dreamland” (Orion Pictures)

nullA loving homage to films like “The Graduate,” this is most definitely a calling card movie. Reviews out of the Tribeca Film Festival were fairly muted, as you might expect for this sort of smaller indie. The filmmaker, Robert Schwartzman, has a definite career ahead of him though. The always solid Johnny Simmons gets a nice leading role to play around with, though it’s Amy Landecker who steals the show in a Mrs. Robinson-type part. Also, it continues the recent trend of jazz getting its due on the big screen, and that’s never a bad thing.

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 40%
Oscar Hopes – No
Screen Count – Limited Release

Elle” (Sony Classics)

elle-03Few actresses had a more challenging role to tackle in 2016 than Isabelle Huppert in this very unusual film. Director Paul Verhoeven has suggested as much in stating that no American actress was willing to take on the part. Regardless, Huppert shines once again here. Clayton said this work was a “striking portrayal,” which is easy to get behind. Verhoeven manages to keep his trashier sensibilities in check, making for something truly different. In addition to his almost surprisingly strong direction, you just keep coming back to Huppert. Look for her to potentially contend in Best Actress, while the film itself is a Best Foreign Language Feature dark horse.

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 92%
Oscar Hopes – There’s a possible chance in Best Actress, as well as in Best Foreign Language Feature
Screen Count – Limited Release

“The Monster” (A24)

maxresdefaultZoe Kazan has long operated under the radar as a phenomenal talent. She’s not suddenly hitting the A-list with this indie horror film, but she deserves to. This is such a strong performance, it more than elevates the whole product from filmmaker Bryan Bertino. Kazan is complex, haunting, and just plain riveting here. After “Arrival,” this is the best bet this weekend. Depending on when you read this, a very positive review of the flick should be up on the site. Kazan especially receives the bulk of the praise, though horror fans will enjoy this one on more genre-specific terms as well.

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 79%
Oscar Hopes – Unlikely
Screen Count – Limited Release

The Rest

  • “Almost Christmas” (Universal)
  • “The Anthropologist” (Argot Pictures)
  • “Disturbing the Peace” (Abramorama)
  • “The Love Witch” (Oscilloscope Pictures)
  • “Shut In” (EuropaCorp)
  • “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage” (Saban Films)

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

What do you think?

Film Lover

Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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