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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 March 25 – March 27.
Because there's finally an actual movie to go along with two years' worth of tireless speculation, previews, on-set images, and trailers…
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Director: Zack Snyder
Stars: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Tao Okamoto, Harry Lennix, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan
Zack Snyder's Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice doesn’t need to be in this week's What To See guide. Everyone's already planning on seeing it, and most have been holding onto their Fandango-purchased pre-sale tickets for months now. And the flood of negative reviews that surfaced online earlier this week won’t do much, if anything, to deter those rabid superhero cinema fiends from spending 2.5 hours watching Ben Affleck's Batman and Henry Cavill’s Superman duke it out in the most bro-centric superhero movie of all time.
But to be completely transparent here, it was either this or the Hank Williams biopic I Saw the Light, in which Tom Hiddleston does his best to overcome a rote bio-drama that's more Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story than anyone involved realizes. And at least Dawn of Justice has Wonder Woman, albeit in small doses alongside the caped bros before actress Gal Gadot and DC Comics' iconic Amazonian badass get their own movie in 2017. Also, more of Snyder's spectacularly enormous VFX sequences, which, even if you consider him to be Michael Bay 2.0, are so visually magnetic and expertly conceived that it’s impossible not to concede some admiration their way.
So, yeah, Batman v. Superman's gargantuan box office intake will be unstoppable this weekend. Fortunately, anti-Snyder and anti-blockbuster cinephiles do have a trio of fine counter-programming options from which to choose, one of which makes the aforementioned I Saw the Light seem even more ridiculous by comparison. Read on for those.
Where to see it: Opening in wide release
Extreme and insane horror has a new home—it's in Turkey…
Director: Can Evrenol
Stars: Muharrem Bayrak, Ergun Kuyucu, Gorkem Kasal, Fatih Dokgoz, Sabahattin Yakut, Mehmet Cerrahoglu
Baskin is the first horror film since French director Pascal Laugier's polarizing Martyrs (2008) that unabashedly goes for it. Turkish writer-director Can Evrenol revels in gore, mayhem, and unruly violence as if he's the spawn of Clive Barker and Rob Zombie. Baskin follows five Turkish cops as they respond to a call for backup at an abandoned old police station. Once they step foot inside the building, they literally enter Hell. But Evrenol's version of Hell isn't all fiery blazes and a horned Lucifer—it's a blood orgy where demons with plastic bags wrapped around their heads butcher cadavers while humping others, and where a small army of shirtless and eyeless minions worship a malevolent deity who's barely four-feet tall and looks like the Cabbage Patch Doll from, well, Hell.
While the blood flows, the intestines spill, and the lunacy escalates, Evrenol ambitiously screws around with Baskin's narrative. Reality gives way to dreams, and the chronology bounces around like a skipping record. Baskin's cumulative effect is akin to spending 90 minutes inside a Hellraiser laserdisc as a turntablist like Skrillex or DJ Premier scratches the disc as if it's vinyl.
Where to see it: IFC Center
Before you see Don Cheadle's Miles Ahead next weekend, get to know one of Miles Davis' most controversial musical peers…
Born to Be Blue (2016)
Director: Robert Budreau
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo, Callum Keith Rennie, Stephen McHattie, Janet-Laine Green
Though it may appear to be just another music industry biopic, Born to Be Blue is the anti-biopic biopic. More I'm Not There than, say, Walk the Line, Canadian writer-director Robert Budreau's formally and narratively playful look at legendary West Coast jazz musician Chet Baker's tumultuous personality and drug addictions heavily fictionalizes the man’s life without losing the essence of what made Baker such a fascinating musical great. It doesn't hurt that Budreau does so backed by one of Ethan Hawke’s best-ever performances.
The way in which Budreau first signals Born to Be Blue's deconstructive nature is killer: The film opens up with Hawke’s Baker bringing a groupie back to his hotel room, doing heroin with her, and then being caught by his girlfriend (Selma's Carmen Ejogo, who's nearly as great as Hawke here), and just when you're ready to write Born to Be Blue off as an orgy of biopic clichés, Budreau disrupts the scene's artifice—it's actually Baker playing himself in a Chet Baker biopic. And before long, the real Baker is turning Ejogo's actress into a pile of romantic mush, sparking a real-life love affair that's upended when Baker is beaten down by some thugs outside of a bowling alley. The facial damages render his trumpet-playing abilities non-existent.
That career-altering incident did happen, by the way, as did much else in Born to Be Blue. Yet from that point forward, Budreau steadily blurs the lines between authenticity and make-believe with a seamlessness that's intoxicating; he's more interested in making something more cinematic than factual, and the outcome is soulful, charming, and devoid of all typical biographical pitfalls.
Animation get an excellent Parisian steampunk makeover…
April and the Extraordinary World (2016)
Directors: Christian Desmares, Franck Ekinci
Stars: Marion Cotillard, Philippe Katerine, Jean Rochefort, Olivier Gourmet
You can't be mad at the fact that Disney's animated smash Zootopia opened on over 3,000 screens—it's on par with the company’s recent Oscar nominee Inside Out. But you can bemoan the fact that the French animated knockout April and the Extraordinary World is only opening on one screen in New York City this weekend, even though it’s just as good as, if not better than, Zootopia, and also equally as socially conscious. Whereas Disney’s cheery flick subtly addresses America’s race relations, co-directors' Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci's steampunk action-thriller masks its anti-pollution themes in gorgeous, old-school-reminiscent animation. And their ode to French graphic novelist Jacques Tardi deserves the same amount of eyes as Judy the bunny’s kiddie crime noir.
Defying ageism, the 40-year-old Marion Cotillard voices a teenage orphan named April, whose closest friend is Darwin, a talking cat (voiced by Philippe Katerine); it's 1941, and April's scientist parents have vanished, leaving their home city of Paris devoid of electricity, dependent on coal and steam for energy, and, due to the rampant pollution, losing its vegetation by the day. As France's capital city's conditions worsen, it's up to April to continue her parents’ work with a powerful serum that, if put into the wrong hands, could bring about a worldwide doomsday.
April and the Extraordinary World’s limited release makes sense once you're in its wonderfully realized universe—most parents aren't exactly anxious to bring their children to the local shopping mall's movie theater to watch a retro toon with allusions to dystopian, serial-inspired adventures like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. But they should be. While its social-political satire is thick, the beautifully rendered April and the Extraordinary World works exceptionally well as a funny, action-packed animated romp. That it's been produced at a richer and higher caliber than what’s currently being made by American studios is the added bonus that's waiting for moviegoers who exist beyond AMC multiplexes.
Where to see it: IFC Center
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