Rogue One

For many, this weekend is damn near a holiday. Yes, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is hitting screens, along with at least one major Academy Award contender. It makes this installment of Weekend Openings a very solid one, without question. Furthermore, it’s the cross section of Oscar bait and holiday blockbusters, which is always interesting. This trend will continue in the weeks to come, so stay tuned for more of that. Today though, the focus is on Star Wars and a high profile adaptation of a Tony Award-winning play. Let us tackle those now, along with the other releases hitting this weekend!

Best Bet This Week

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (Buena Vista/Disney)

The first Star Wars outing not to be an episode installment, this prequel of sorts has been met with a very positive reception. Furthermore, it’s being praised as the rare franchise film that can thread a very tricky needle. It’s filling in story blanks while not feeling superfluous or merely like fan service. In addition, this appears to be the rare occasion where high-profile reshoots turned out to be a positive. Look for star Felicity Jones and company to dominate the box office for weeks to come. Oscar may well take notice, too. Sit tight and we’ll see what happens there, but everyone will be seeing this movie. You can bet on that.

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 84%
Oscar Hopes – A technical category contender
Screen Count – 4,157

Also Opening of Note

Barry” (Netflix)

The second 2016 release to deal with a young Barack Obama, this one looks at his coming-of-age while in New York City. While “Southside With You” looked more at an event in the president’s life, this is more about a period of time. “Barry” is decidedly low-profile, but reviews have been really good. Add in the curiosity factor, along with President Obama soon to leave office (though, can we not have that happen?), and there’s a chance this hits in a bigger way than expected. If not on the independent theater level at the box office, then at home On Demand.

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 84%
Oscar Hopes – Unlikely
Screen Count – Limited Release

“Collateral Beauty” (Warner Brothers/New Line)

Oh boy. This Will Smith holiday vehicle is designed as Star Wars counter programming, but once was thought of as a potential awards player as well. Smith’s A-list appeal and star power will be tested with this one. Reviews have called it laughably bad and shamefully misguided. Basically, it deals with grief in all the wrong ways and is everything that “Manchester by the Sea” isn’t. In all likelihood, “Collateral Beauty” will tank and be quickly forgotten about, continuing a bad trend for Smith, at least in terms of quality. He still brings it for the most part, money wise, but his taste in projects is getting more and more questionable.

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 12%
Oscar Hopes – Not anymore
Screen Count – 2,900+ Screens

Fences” (Paramount Pictures)

Here’s something the Academy will surely take notice of. Denzel Washington directs his third feature with this long gestating adaptation of the highly regarded play by August Wilson. Both Washington himself and Viola Davis live up to the hype. Washington the actor is far more accomplished than Washington the director, but the latter is definitely improving. The main thing holding “Fences” back is that it feels stagier than it’s meant to. Your mileage may vary. Clayton loves it, as you can see in his rave review. More likely than not, you will, too. Star power mixes with Oscar potential here in something any cinephile should be very curious about.

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 88%
Oscar Hopes – An across-the-board contender
Screen Count – 4 Screens (Platform Release)

Neruda” (The Orchard)

Academy Award contender “Jackie” might be the Pablo Larrain film that gets the most attention in 2016, but this is his other unusual biopic this year. Here, he turns his focus not to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy but to Pablo Neruda, the beloved fugitive poet. It’s a very arty flick, but as our review from the New York Film Festival stated, it’s a showcase for Larrain’s filmmaking. Currently boasting a 100% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes, “Neruda” might be the most praised film that no one knows about. That will change if it gets a Best Foreign Language Feature nomination at the Oscars, but time will tell there. For now, those captivated by “Jackie” should seek out this unusual companion piece.

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100%
Oscar Hopes – A contender in Best Foreign Language Feature
Screen Count – Limited Release

The Rest

“The Bad Kids” (FilmRise)
“The Hollow Point” (Independent)
“A Kind of Murder” (Magnolia Pictures)
“Solace” (Lionsgate Premiere)

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