This weekend, the film to see is Woody Allen's latest dramedy "Blue Jasmine," starring Cate Blanchett in one of her most elegantly unhinged performances as a floundering New York socialite who uproots herself to San Francisco to siphon off her sister's (Sally Hawkins) good will. Though Allen paints a picture of class dichotomies in rather broad strokes, it's Blanchett's portrayal of a Blanche Dubois-type that makes this one of Allen's most inspired efforts in years.
Also in limited release is Hong Kong filmmaker Johnny To's genre thriller "Drug War," a Chinese-Hong Kong coproduction that debuted last November to acclaim at the Rome Film Festival. Best known for his "Election" films, also about crime rings in Hong Kong, To is a master of economy in action moviemaking, and critics are chalking up "Drug War" as another successful entry in his prolific career.
Meanwhile in wide release, Maggie Carey's raunchy R-rated teen sex comedy "The To Do List," set in 1993, stars the droll, dead-in-the-eyes Aubrey Plaza (NBC's "Parks and Recreation") as a high school valedictorian determined to lose her virginity before college. The film is released by CBS Films, who have a strong year on the horizon with the upcoming Coen Brothers' film "Inside Llewyn Davis" and with last May's "The Kings of Summer" a modest success.
Friday's biggest studio release is Fox's X-Men reboot, "The Wolverine," reprising Hugh Jackman as the titular warrior mutant. With an estimated $100 million-plus budget and a projected $70 mil opening weekend, could the film break this summer's box office blunder streak, which hit rock bottom last week with the epic flops of "RED 2" and "R.I.P.D."? Early reviews are divisive, denouncing the film's clumsy balance of a dark, existential character study with male demo-driven genre tropes. At Comic-Con, director James Mangold ("Knight and Day") gave the tip of the hat to Christopher Nolan for pioneering the gritty superhero movie, so his influence will surely be felt here.
See trailers for this week's releases after the jump.
Blue Jasmine Dir. Woody Allen, USA | Sony Pictures Classics | Cast: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K., Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard | 84% Fresh | New York Observer: "Richly chronicled characters, sharp dialogue and that stupendous centerpiece performance by Cate Blanchett are contributing factors in the best summer movie of 2013 and one of the most memorable Woody Allen movies ever." | Our TOH! review and video interview with Blanchett.
Drug War Dir. Johnny To, China | Variance Films | Cast: Louis Koo, Sun Honglei, Crystal Huang, Wallace Chung | 92% Fresh | Variety: "A nail-biter that’s actually quite light on action but so well-scripted and shot, it’s nonetheless edge-of-your-seat material."
The To Do List Dir. Maggie Carey, USA | CBS Films | Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Alia Shawkat, Bill Hader, Johnny Simmons | 74% Fresh | Entertainment Weekly: "A summer-adventure comedy, and its tone is fairly synthetic, yet it gets major props for giving us the first movie heroine who is clueless and easy in such a hardcore way."
The Wolverine Dir. James Mangold, USA | 20th Century Fox | Cast: Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Rila Fukushima | 72% Fresh | Empire: "An improvement on the last outing for Jackman’s not-so-merry mutant. If only it trusted enough in its unique setting to forgo a descent into aggressively awful formula." | Our TOH! review roundup and Immersed in Movies interview from Comic-Con
Wasteland Dir. Rowan Athale, UK | Oscilloscope Pictures | Cast: Matthew Lewis, Iwan Rheon, Timothy Spall, Vanessa Kirby | 44% Fresh | Slant: "At heart a heist movie, snappy and dry in its humor, clever in its elaborate robbery scheme, and somewhat bloated and unspooled in its storytelling."