Good news: Your weekend moviegoing needs have been simplified. Every Thursday morning, our What To See guide will highlight the new releases opening in New York City and NYC repertory screenings that are most worth your time.
Here's your guide for the weekend of February 26 – February 28.
Because you have to respect a movie this grim when it has so many A-list stars…
Triple 9 (2016)
Director: John Hillcoat
Stars: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Kate Winslet, Clifton Collins, Jr., Aaron Paul, Woody Harrelson, Norman Reedus, Gal Gadot, Teresa Palmer, Michael K. Williams
John Hillcoat's Triple 9 and Ridley Scott's The Counselor would make a great double bill of "Solid and Very Bleak Movies With A-List Casts and Zero Characters to Care About."
That's a compliment.
Shamelessly patched together with elements lifted straight out of superior movies like Heat, Reservoir Dogs, and Training Day, Triple 9 is specifically engineered for moviegoers who enjoy healthy doses of severed heads and hyper-stylized gunfights with their big-time Hollywood movie stars. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the head of a ragtag group of crooks and dirty cops in Atlanta who’ve been blackmailed by the Russian Mafia, which is led by the ruthless Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet, relishing an atypically despicable, albeit minimal, role), and forced to carry out a highly dangerous heist. To facilitate their plan, they devise a plan for one of their own, crooked police officer Marcus (Anthony Mackie), to arrange the murder of his new partner, Chris (Casey Affleck), and, in turn, distract all of Atlanta’s law enforcement officials via a "999" call. Complications arise, though, via a former cop turned unstable junkie (Aaron Paul) and Chris’ Sergeant Detective uncle (Woody Harrelson).
It’s pretty ingenious counter-programming to release this bleak and pulpy crime thriller on Oscar weekend. Hillcoat's film, a corpse-riddled B-movie dressed in a glossy Hollywood sheen, mercilessly fires bullets into everything the Academy holds dear, namely characterization, nuance, and emotionally potent drama. Presumably because of the involvement of Hillcoat, who’s earned a sterling reputation thanks to the excellent and mature genre flicks The Proposition (2005) and The Road (2009), acting heavyweights like Winslet and Ejiofor give it their coldest all in what's ultimately a one-note film that's as hollow as the handgun shells that heavily populate it, which is a large part of Triple 9 ghastly charms. It’s an exercise in unapologetic grimness made with technical panache and terrifically performed by actors who endearingly buy into all of its wholesale nastiness.
Where to see it: Opening in wide release
If you love goofy '80s training montages and on-the-nose '80s-movie bully confrontations, this one's for you…
Eddie the Eagle (2016)
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Stars: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Christopher Walken, Jo Hartley, Mark Benton, Keith Allen, Tim McInnerny
Eddie the Eagle doesn't waste any time proudly displaying its cheesiness. As directed by Dexter Fletcher, it’s aggressively upbeat and so transparently engineered to inspire that it's surprising theaters won't come equipped with pre-showing introductions given by motivational speakers, and its peppiness is no more apparent than through the synth-heavy score, which sounds like it's been orchestrated by the ghost from silly 1980s movies past. In most cases, such forceful sentiments would feel obnoxious, yet Fletcher makes the feel-good hokum work in this crowd-pleasing biopic on Michael "Eddie" Edwards, England's first Olympic ski jumper. It's the most Cool-Runnings-like movie since, well, 1993’s Cool Runnings.
Solidifying his star potential after last year's Kingsman: The Secret Service, Taron Egerton is a delight as Edwards, excitably playing the handicapped but wide-eyed dreamer without turning him into a caricature. Despite his dad's skepticism and his peers' ridicule, Edwards defied the odds as a 22-year-old and competed in the 1988 Olympic Games; Eddie the Eagle follows the exact narrative arcs that inherently match that description. But the clichés feel enlivened thanks to Egerton and co-star Hugh Jackman, the latter playing a totally made-up coach with his own redemption song to sing. And Fletcher, with those Karate-Kid-esque synthesizers in his ear, owns every '80s-wannabe moment, including silly training montages and the egregiously applause-worthy of Van Halen’s "Jump."
Where to see it: Opening in wide release
Consider this a Tribeca Film Festival specifically for the little kids in your life…
The 2016 New York International Children's Film Festival
In a little over a week, Disney’s animated flick Zootopia will leave the kids in your life jonesing to visit the multiplex—and, if the early reviews are to be trusted, the movie itself will reward their excitement. But why make the youngsters wait that long for their next movie theater visit? Beginning this weekend, they’ll have four weeks’ worth of age-appropriate movie premieres, filmmaker Q&As, workshops, and cinema education field trips at their disposal. In other words, New York City's budding cinephiles are about to enter their own private heavens.
While the grown-ups prepare for this year's Tribeca Film Festival, the kiddies have their own very own movie blowout: the New York International Children’s Film Festival, which will be held all throughout NYC starting this Friday, February 26, and running nonstop through Sunday, March 20. The program includes 100 new films from across the globe, picked specifically for audiences ranging from 3 years old to 18. Although the big-screen entertainment has been catered to young bucks and buckettes, the festival itself isn't child’s play—the jury includes Julianne Moore, Sofia Coppola, and Gus Van Sant.
The NY Int'l Children's Film Festival's opening weekend is quite impressive, too. There's the NY premiere of the critically beloved French animated film April and the Extraordinary World, a documentary about four Norwegian kids who’ve formed a Beatles cover band (Beatles), screenings of the newly restored print of Brad Bird’s amazing The Iron Giant, and the North American premiere of Germany's delightful Molly Monster.
Where to see it: Screening schedule and ticket info here
Spend this Saturday afternoon with Spike Jonze and a gang of "Wild Things"…
Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
Director: Spike Jonze
Stars: Max Records, Mark Ruffalo, Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, Forest Whitaker, Catherine O’Hara, Paul Dano, Michael Berry, Jr., Spike Jonze, Pepita Emmerichs
Speaking of "budding cinephiles," here's some catnip for them.
There's arguably no better place for a young movie-fanatic-in-training to start than by watching Spike Jonze's magical and mesmerizing adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic 1963 children's book Where the Wild Things Are. It is, or at least should be, the pre-teen crowd's equivalent of an adult's favorite Alejandro Jodorowsky or Charlie Kaufman movie. Like a far less disturbing version of Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, Where the Wild Things Are follows young Max (played by then-first-timer Max Records) as he deals with social anxieties by hanging out with a gang of hairy make-believe creatures who've named him their "king."
It’s crazy to think that Where the Wild Things Are was funded and released by a major Hollywood studio. It's heady, surrealistic, and maturely oddball—descriptors that rarely ever accompany children's cinema. But that's why Spike Jonze was the perfect choice for Sendak’s wonderful source material. Jonze blends first-class CGI with old-fashioned "actors in costumes" simplicity, rendering Max’s dream world as lifelike as it is fantastical. If most films for kids are candy for their eyes, Where the Wild Things Are is a positive-effects hallucinogenic for their minds.
Where to see it: Nitehawk Cinema
NOTE: Spike Jonze will be in attendance to intro Saturday's screening.
Check out the best that modern-day Latin American filmmakers have to offer...
Cinema Tropical Festival 2016
This weekend, the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, is hosting the 2016 Cinema Tropical Festival, which honors excellence in Latin American cinema. The six-film series kicks off Friday night with a special screening of the transgender documentary Mala Mala, winner of the Best U.S. Latino film at the 6th annual Cinema Tropical Awards; filmmakers Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles, as well as documentary subject April Carrion, will be in attendance.
While all of the films are worthy of your attention, we highly recommend making it to Sunday night's screening of Best Fiction winner Jauja. Directed by Argentine filmmaker Lisandro Alonso, Jauja is a co-production from Argentina, Denmark, Mexico, and France, and features an entrancing lead performance from Viggo Mortensen. (Although born in New York to Danish and American parents, Mortensen spent the majority of his childhood in Argentina and speaks perfect Spanish.) Having previously been the sole writer of his films and worked with non-professional casts, Alonso slightly diverged from his usual filming practices to partner with celebrated Argentine author Fabian Casas, master cinematographer Timo Salminen (celebrated for his work with filmmaker Aki Kaurismaki), and the famous Mortensen. As for the style and feeling of the film, not much has changed from Alonso’s humble beginnings.
Simple yet beautiful, minimalistic and mysterious, Jauja appears to take place during the late 19th century conquest of an indigenous-inhabited Patagonia (a.k.a. southern Argentina) by European-Argentines. It follow the travails of a Danish engineer (Mortensen) employed by the Argentine army as he goes in search of his young daughter, Inge, who's run off with a handsome Argentine soldier. That's the surface narrative of a time-bending, labyrinthine visual journey through vast landscapes loosely tethered by sparse, mostly undeveloped characters. Largely unclassifiable, Jauja tears down cinematic borders and relishes the freedom of having no limits. —Melina Gills
Where to see it: Museum of the Moving Image
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