Have you checked everything off your Oscar to-do list? With the Academy Awards rolling out the red carpet on Sunday, if you're caught up, this weekend is a good time to catch a grab bag of films ranging from the tiniest of indies to an escapist actioner. The must-to-avoid is Fox's hack Christ Movie, which looks like it's made from outtakes from TV's "The Bible"--it's from the same producing team. If you want to see what smart filmmakers can do with the Jesus story, watch Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" or Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ" instead.
Ritesh Batra's feature debut, the unprepossessing indie "The Lunchbox," has heart. Set in and around Mumbai's grand-scale lunchbox delivery system, the warm, well-observed romantic drama was snapped up by Sony Pictures Classics out of Cannes, where it won the viewer's choice award at Critics' Week. India unaccountably overlooked the indie word-of-mouth hit of Telluride and Toronto as its Oscar submission.
From the directors of "A Town Called Panic," the animated "Ernest and Celestine" is a delightfully weird and gentle mix of comedy and tenderness in its story of the unlikely friendship between a mouse and a bear. Oscar-nominated for Best Animated Feature -- though it doesn't hold a candle to "Frozen" in terms of awards chances -- the French animated farce has now been revamped with a star English-language voice cast featuring Forest Whitaker, Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman and Paul Giamatti.
Liam Neeson once again proves his fortitude as one of our biggest action stars in "Non-Stop," an airborne paranoid thriller costarring Julianne Moore and "House of Cards"' Corey Stoll. Critics have reacted favorably to this film, as they have done to the "Taken" films and 2011's under-appreciated "The Grey." Neeson tends to be a box office draw, so "Non-Stop" should play well this weekend--especially for those of us in need of respite from all this Oscar season ballyhoo, hitting its apogee this Sunday evening.
The Lunchbox Dir. Ritesh Batra, India | Sony Pictures Classics | Cast: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Lillete Dubey | 94% Fresh | NYT: "The comedy is more wry than uproarious, the melodrama gently poignant rather than operatic, and the sentimentality just sweet enough to be satisfying rather than bothersome." Our review and roundup
Ernest & Celestine Dirs. Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar & Benjamin Renner, France | GKIDS | Voice cast: Forest Whitaker, Mackenzie Foy, Lauren Bacall, Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy, Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, Jeffrey Wright | 100% Fresh | LA Weekly: "The film's gorgeous, hand-drawn animation is as lovingly detailed as the drawings a girl mouse named Celestine is secretly making about an imaginary mouse and bear friendship." | Our review
Non-Stop Dir. Jaume Collet-Serra, USA | Universal Pictures | Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Nate Parker, Corey Stoll | 57% Fresh | Washington Post: "It's the propulsive pace of the film and the nice sense of suspense it builds that help most in glossing over its failings."
Son of God Dir. Christopher Spencer, USA | 20th Century Fox | Cast: Diogo Morgado, Roma Downey, Greg Hicks, Adrian Schiller, Darwin Shaw, Sebastian Knapp | 27% Fresh | Film.com: "Considering just how popular Jesus is, you'd think he'd get better treatment." | Our interview with Morgado