Though critics are pooh-poohing the tawdry, toilet-humor antics of Seth MacFarlane’s “Million Ways to Die in the West,” Angelina Jolie in “Maleficent” promises to be a fun family time-suck, while the weekend’s indies offer something more to chew on.
Director Kelly Reichardt’s most accessible film to date, “Night Moves,” is a finely chiseled, old-fashioned thriller stars Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard as a band of radical environmentalists whose small act of eco-terrorism spawns a Dostoevskian fallout for all. Brooding beneath utterly natural performances and the film’s noir outline is an elemental story of guilt and impossible redemption — and Eisenberg’s best work since “The Social Network.”
Disney updates “Sleeping Beauty” in gloomy fairytale “Maleficent,” starring a wickedly beautiful Angelina Jolie as the iconic arch villain. Word is the film gets muddled in a stew of CGI, and in a screenplay that brings nothing new to the fairytale table. But Jolie is the reason to watch, and surely audiences will do so accordingly this weekend.
Two long-awaited indies finally hit — Moodysson’s fantastic youngster punk band comedy “We Are the Best!“, which may really be the “best!” of the weekend, and Jon S. Baird’s Irvine Welsh adaptation “Filth,” starring a stable of studly Brits — including James McAvoy and Jamie Bell — as vulgarians with a taste for the ole ultraviolence.
Night Moves Dir. Kelly Reichardt, USA | Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard, Alia Shawkat | 78% Fresh | The Dissolve: “A film of deliberate, gnawing intensity and focus, built around a Jesse Eisenberg performance that doesn’t give much away, at least not easily.” | Our review and Q&A with Peter Sarsgaard
Maleficent Dir. Robert Stromberg, USA | Disney | Cast: Angelina Jolie, Sam Riley, Elle Fanning, Miranda Richardson, Imelda Staunton | 45% Fresh | Salon.com: “Whatever its flaws, ‘Maleficent’ is a family-friendly Disney adventure that offers a relaunched and thoroughly delightful Angelina Jolie…” | Our director interview
A Million Ways to Die in the West Dir. Seth MacFarlane, USA | Universal | Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris | 35% Fresh | New York Magazine: “Some of the gags do land – maybe one in four. But the genre-parody genre with big stars and poop jokes needs a little more class than MacFarlane is capable of providing.”
We Are the Best! Dir. Lukas Moodysson, Sweden | Magnolia Pictures | Cast: Mira Barkhammar, Liv LeMoyne, Mira Grosin, Alexander Karlsson | 97% Fresh | LA Times: “If ever a movie earned the exclamation point in its title, it’s Lukas Moodysson’s ‘We Are the Best!'”
Filth Dir. Jon S. Baird, UK | Magnet | Cast: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Jim Broadbent, Imogen Poots | 67% Fresh | NYT: “After a certain point, watching it is like listening to the ravings of an increasingly incoherent and abusive drunk.”