This weekend, “Moonlight” makes its highly anticipated theatrical bow. The weekend also features a surprise entry of a new Michael Moore film, among many other titles. It all makes for a set of new releases that really showcase how we’re now in the thick of awards season. There’s still solid popcorn entertainment to be found, but baity independent releases are starting to become the norm as well. “Moonlight” isn’t the only one this week, just the most well regarded. This is one of the stronger weekends we’ve had, at least this month. Take a look below and be sure to head to your local theater at least once!
Best Bet This Week
One of 2016’s most beautiful films to date. This is just a damn near masterpiece. A deceptively simple tale, it quickly becomes apparent just how powerful it’s going to be. Both Clayton and Mark raved about it on the festival circuit, and I’m right there with them in loving the film. “Moonlight” is just terrific. Barry Jenkins is a filmmaker to keep an eye on. The same goes for this cast, especially Mahershala Ali. Make it your business to see “Moonlight” as soon as humanly possible. You can thank all of us later.
Rotten Tomatoes Score – 99%
Oscar Hopes – Across the board potential for “Moonlight”
Screen Count – 4 Screens (Platform Release)
Also Opening of Note
“American Pastoral” (Lionsgate)
Ewan McGregor‘s directorial debut was once poised to be a bit of an Oscar X factor. Then, folks saw it. Even if it had gotten better reviews, the release of “Moonlight” would have overshadowed it. It’s been mostly panned though, so you can safely all but count it out. McGregor apparently suffered from attempting a difficult Philip Roth adaptation. He wouldn’t be the first to fall short there, but I’m sure he’ll be back. McGregor may very well direct again soon. This functions mostly as a curiosity, but if you’re a fan of his, it could be something slightly worthwhile for you.
Rotten Tomatoes Score – 16%
Oscar Hopes – Unlikely
Screen Count – 45 Screens (Platform Release)
“In a Valley of Violence” (Focus World)
The latest throwback genre outing from filmmaker Ti West puts Ethan Hawke once again in a Western. This time, he’s partnered with a phenomenally entertaining dog, playing a drifter put upon when he enters a small town. I don’t want to say where it goes, but it turns into a bloody good time. It’s nothing to go wild over, but it’s a solid and offbeat flick. Fair warning, pet lovers may have a rough scene to get through, but if I could survive it, you probably can too. Hawke is reliably good and West shows some more range as a director. It’s nowhere in the league of “Moonlight,” but it’s an option I’d definitely recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score – 77%
Oscar Hopes – I wouldn’t bet on it
Screen Count – 30 Screens
“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” (Paramount)
Tom Cruise returns to his other franchise with this sequel. It’s pretty much “Jack Reacher” all over again, with new supporting players and a different case to solve. Despite a lack of anything too new on display, it’s certainly nice to see Cruise reunite with filmmaker Edward Zwick. That being said, “The Last Samurai” this is not. You likely already know if you’re going to enjoy this action flick or not. It worked for me, though you couldn’t be blamed if you waited for it to make it to cable. Cruise kicking ass hasn’t gotten old just yet, and this doubles down on that pleasure.
Rotten Tomatoes Score – 39%
Oscar Hopes – Nope
Screen Count – 3,600 Screens
“Michael Moore in TrumpLand” (Independent)
As I wrote in my review, Michael Moore has made something very timely here with this one man show. Second only to “Moonlight” in terms of quality this week, it shows Moore in Ohio speaking to voters across the aisle. Instead of just being a Donald Trump takedown, which it partially is, this is also a look at why Hillary Clinton isn’t the boogeyman many think she is. Considering how Moore wasn’t always a fan of hers, he’s coming from a somewhat relatable place. Partisans may slice this one up without even seeing it, but I certainly recommend that you give it a chance. You might be surprised with what you find.
Rotten Tomatoes Score – 41%
Oscar Hopes – A long shot in Best Documentary Feature
Screen Count – Limited Release
“31” (Saban Films)
“Boo! A Madea Halloween” (Lionsgate)
“Fire at Sea” (Kino Lorber)
“The Handmaiden” (Magnolia)
“Keeping Up with the Joneses” (20th Century Fox)
“King Cobra” (IFC Films)
“Ouija: Origin of Evil” (Universal)
“The Uncondemned” (Abramorama)
“We Are X” (Drafthouse)
“The Whole Truth” (Lionsgate Premiere)