There are a whole lot of new movies coming out over the next few days, which means your weekend is all about choices. Are you interested in seeing something that epitomizes its genre, or defies it? Are you looking for a movie that makes you think, or one that makes you laugh — or both? No matter why you decide to head to the theater, we salute you, and we’re here to help. Here’s what’s new at the box office:
Not to be haters or anything, but we’re still a little confused about why this movie needed to be made in the first place. But we bit the bullet and sat through all two-and-a-half hours of Bad Times at the El Royale, and we’d be a bunch of hypocrites if we didn’t offer at least the same consideration to the similarly protracted remake of a perfectly “good” cult classic. Speaking of which, we can’t wait to see if “Bad Times” star Dakota Johnson, known mostly for her… um, “work” in the Fifty Shades saga, has what it takes to be the leading lady for this bold undertaking, but we can’t help but think that director Luca Guadagnino (of Call Me By Your Name fame) is engaging us in some kind of unholy cinematic algebra. Will we accept one Dakota Johnson for twice the Tilda Swinton, plus up-and-coming ingénues Mia Goth and Chloë Grace Moretz? Yeah, that sounds fair. Truth be told, this isn’t the first time Swinton and Johnson have shared the screen — they starred together in Guadagnino’s 2015 film A Bigger Splash.
Over the years, there have been a few cinematic adaptations of works by beloved surrealist author Haruki Murakami — Norwegian Wood, Tony Takitani, and All God’s Children Can Dance come to mind — and Burning, adapted from Murakami’s short story, “Barn Burning,” promises to hold its own among them. It marks both a return to cinema for long-blacklisted director Lee Chang-dong, as well as a leading-man debut for Sorry to Bother You’s, Steven Yeun. We won’t mince words: If you’re looking for a predictable story with a neat resolution, you’re not going to find it here! But if you’re interested in being taken for one long, strange trip, you’ll be rewarded with a cinematic experience that’s sure to stick with you for quite some time.
Watch Now: Get to know the work of director Lee Chang-dong with his film Oasis, a foundational work of South Korean New Wave cinema.
If you’re a fan of unconventional romance with a heaping helping of magical realism (like The Shape of Water, for example), then Border will be right up your alley. The story of Tina, a lonely woman with a strange appearance and seemingly supernatural sense of smell, and Vore, the alluring stranger who turns her bleak yet predictable existence inside out, Border is a socially relevant fable with deep, dark, twisted roots in Scandinavian folklore. After taking home the Un Certain Regard award for visionary, unconventional cinema at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, Border will compete with Roma, Shoplifters, and Cold War for this year’s Best Foreign Film Academy Award. And then, like Let the Right One In (also based on source material by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it will probably be remade in English. So do yourself a favor and catch the subtitled version while you can.
Johnny English Strikes Again
Rowan Atkinson and his eyebrows are back, and this time, it’s a cyber-attack! You know, because the old “hack-and-leak” is Hollywood’s new favorite ripped-from-the-headlines plot device for… some reason. Like our martinis, we like how Atkinson’s secret agent man is on the dry side — you know, as opposed to the Austin Powers school of British spy spoofs, for example — and you have to give it to him for being sixty-three and still totally willing to throw himself over a yacht railing. Did you hear that, Tom? Come to think of it, Johnny English Strikes Again would make a great double feature with Hunter Killer (see below).
Watch Now: If you’re into spy movie spoofs, then you won’t want to miss OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies and OSS 117: Lost in Rio, now available for streaming on Fandor.
If we’re counting correctly, Hunter Killer joins All About Nina, Smallfoot, and The Hate U Give among the ways that you can currently catch rapper-actor Common on the big screen. That’s, like, eight hours worth of Common, right there. Can’t be mad about that.
Hunter Killer is basically The Hunt for Red October, except that a woman is a president. Gerard Butler, is there, too, on break from playing Secret Service agent Mike Banning in order to play Commander Joe Glass of the U.S. Navy. Do you think that he ever gets mixed up about which American military hero he’s playing? Does he live as Banning, but dream as Glass? We digress. If you’re looking for a way to find some — ahem — common ground with your Tom Clancy-loving granddad, then this just might be the (movie) ticket.
We hadn’t heard from Viper Club director Maryam Keshavarz since 2011 when her excellent film Circumstance won a whole lot of laurels and trophies (including an Audience Award at Sundance). Circumstance explores facets of contemporary Iranian adolescence through the experience of two young women struggling with mounting cultural and religious pressures, as well as budding sexuality that isn’t exactly, shall we say, state-sanctioned. The movie is banned in Iran.
This long-awaited follow-up, which by the way is the first YouTube-produced feature to play in theaters, explores the volatility of modern-day Syria through the experience of a white woman living in the United States, frantically trying to bargain for the life of her journalist son at the hands of a terrorist group. That white woman is Susan Sarandon because of course, she is.
Especially when considering that Keshavarz’s movies pre-Circumstance tended even more toward the experimental and the essayistic, it’s hard not to feel let down by what feels like a promising directorial voice acquiesces to the most mainstream of audiences. At the same time, Viper Club is not without its own controversy: As you can imagine, a movie about civilians raising ransom money to send to conflict zones has elicited some pretty strong feedback, to which YouTube has already responded with re-edits and reparations (in the form of a well-timed donation to the James W. Foley foundation). Ironically enough, in spite of all, what might most undermine the success of Viper Club is the very real — and very lurid — news about the late journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a story that continues to unfold in real-time.