This weekend boasts two major studio releases ready to duke it out for the box office victory, as well as a few modest indies that have been holding court on the festival circuit all year. All are sitting with favorable reviews, so you can't really go wrong here.
One of the year's first Oscar locks is "How to Train Your Dragon 2," DreamWorks' delightful animated sequel to the beloved 2010 original that lost the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature to "Toy Story 3." Both "Dragon 2" and this weekend's other sequel, the very R-rated comedy "22 Jump Street," though aimed at wildly different demos, are expected to break $50 million at the box office.
"Jump Street," which reunites Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as an unlikely pair of cops, may alienate some. The two actors continue to play off their Mutt and Jeff mismatch, deconstructing their bromance for laughs. Slate's Dana Stevens points out the film's "mild strain of homophobia" -- though she says it's a "genial class clown of a movie."
Meanwhile, Aussie director David Michôd follows up his breakthrough Oscar-nominated crime thriller "Animal Kingdom" with "The Rover" starring Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson as denizens of an apocalypse-ravaged outback. Notably, Joel Edgerton assisted Michôd with writing the film, which impressed critics at Cannes.
Also off the fest circuit comes emotionally wrought indie drama "Hellion," Aaron Paul's latest post-"Breaking Bad" vehicle, and the similarly titled "Heli," a gruesome Mexican revenge story that couldn't be more different, as well as Andrew Rossi's probing "Ivory Tower" which looks critically at the high cost of college education.
This weekend, Focus Features releases "The Signal," which twists the carefree-college-kids-on-a-roadtrip genre into a sci-fi mindboggler starring Laurence Fishburne as the face behind a darkly sprawling conspiracy brewing in the Southwest.
Trailers for all after the jump.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 Dir. Dean DeBlois, USA | 20th Century Fox | Cast: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Craig Ferguson | 96% Fresh | Variety: "This DreamWorks Animation sequel advances the story without sacrificing the integrity that defined its most atypical toon." | Our Cannes coverage
22 Jump Street Dirs. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, USA | Sony Pictures | Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Peter Stormare, Ice Cube | 90% Fresh | Salon.com: "Hill and Tatum make a classic and highly successful comedy team, balancing a series of amiable running gags and the most familiar kind of slapstick."
The Rover Dir. David Michôd, Australia | A24 Films | Cast: Robert Pattinson, Guy Pearce, Scoot McNairy, David Field | 67% Fresh | THR: "Fusing a hybrid of quasi-apocalyptic influences into a work with a pungent character of its own, 'The Rover' suggests something like a Cormac McCarthy vision of Australia halfway between today and 'The Road Warrior' times."
Heli Dir. Amat Escalante, Mexico | Outsider Pictures | Cast: Armando Espitia, Andrea Vergara, Linda Gonzalez | 53% Fresh | Slant Magazine: "The emotional and political point through all this isn't to be taken lightly, but because the entirety of the film has such a nihilistic temperament, its effect is muted." | Our Cannes interview with Escalante
Hellion Dir. Kat Candler, USA | IFC Films | Cast: Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis, Josh Wiggins, Deke Garner | 50% Fresh | Village Voice: "'Hellion' offers Paul his most adult screen role so far, and he's very fine, but the movie belongs to Wiggins, a newcomer whose innate gifts are a perfect echo of Paul's."
Ivory Tower Dir. Andrew Rossi, USA | Samuel Goldwyn Films | 83% Fresh | Time Out New York: "Andrew Rossi's excellent doc cools down the anti-intellectual rhetoric, weighing the real costs of crippling debt against the transformative power of learning."
The Signal Dir. William Eubank, USA | Focus Features | Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp | 53% Fresh | LA Times: "There's bravura manipulativeness to 'The Signal,' the stylish, slyly funny question mark of a movie from director and co-writer William Eubank."