A Viewer's Guide to Weekend Movies: 2014 Begins, At Last

After a few weeks of hibernation, it's time that January started offering up movie viewing options once again. This weekend is pretty packed.

This article is from the archive of our partner .

After a couple weeks of treading water and mostly focusing on catching up with the 2013 year-end releases that still needed theatrical expansion, this weekend offers a veritable glut of viewing options, whether or not you're looking to leave the house.

In Theaters

It kind of depends on what kind of junk you're looking to consume this weekend. The best of the bunch, if you're looking at critical reception as aggregated by Rotten Tomatoes, is the Chris Pine franchise reboot Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Though it's not like endorsements in the vein of "a competently made, moderately diverting variation on a genre standard" (via A.O. Scott) are going to blow the doors off multiplexes.

Still, the Jack Ryan reviews are certainly looking better than those for the Ice Cube/Kevin Hart action comedy Ride Along, which is currently riding a 19% approval, though so many of those negative reviews are in the "well, if you like Kevin Hart's schtick" vein, which makes me think audiences may well defy the critics and flock to this one in decent numbers.

Your other options: the animated comedy The Nut Job, starring the voices of Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph, and Katherine Heigl; and the horror offering Devil's Due, which may well be horrible, but which currently holds the distinction of the year's most fantastically hilarious title and trailer:

In Limited Release

A festival hit throughout 2013, G.B.F. comes from the minds of screenwriter George Northy and Jawbreaker director Darren Stein. While clad in the sheep's clothing of a hyperverbal, aggressively posturing teen comedy, G.B.F. is actually smart and insightful in a next-level way about not only gay teens caught up in the high school popularity arms race at a time when gayness is both demonized and fetishized, but also about the way gay characters are represented in the movies themselves. It also boasts some likeable and very funny performances from the likes of Megan Mullally, Natasha Lyonne, and Paul Iacano. It's opening in Los Angeles (Sundance Sunset Cinemas), Atlanta (The Plaza), and Chicago (Facets Cinematheque) this weekend, and in New York, San Francisco, San Diego, and Seattle next week. 
Like Father, Like Son is another festival fave (it won two prizes in Cannes) opening in New York this weekend. It's a Japanese family drama from director Hirokazu Koreesa, and no less an authority than Manohla Dargis calls it a "persuasively human story."  It's playing in New York City at the IFC Center and at Lincoln Plaza.

Video on Demand

If you're looking to engage in a kind of Oscar counter-programming binge at home, this is the weekend to do it. Zero-time Oscar nominee Lee Daniels' The Butler  (iTunes link) is now available, so you can see how kind of fantastic Oprah is in it. She's not doing Eugene O'Neill up there, but it's a fun, lively performance in a movie that splits the difference between intriguingly thoughtful ambivalence and STARS! STARS! STARS!

Also shut out of the Oscar race entirely, as you may have heard, is Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale Station (iTunes link), which boasts the growing pains of a first-time director but also an honest sensitivity and some great performances by Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, and Octavia Spencer.

Two smaller festival hits that were favorites of the critics, if not the Academy, were James Ponsoldt's The Spectacular Now (iTunes link), about high-schoolers Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley navigating a tentative romance, and Destin Cretton's Short Term 12 (iTunes link), featuring one of the year's best lead actress performances in Brie Larson, not that you'd know it from awards season.

Of course, if you want to just go the other way entirely, there's always the enduringly non-essential Carrie remake (iTunes link).

Streaming Online

If On Demand is where you want to go for the Oscar-snubbed, Netflix has you covered for some of the more obscure movies that the Academy DID see fit to nominate. Best Documentary Feature The Square debuts on streaming today, so you can check out this exhilaratingly current look at the Egyptian Revolution, almost as if it's happening in real time.

The Best Foreign Language Film entry from Denmark is The Hunt, and that's also streaming. Not only is it a morality play about suspicion and fear in a close-knit town, it's also a chance to see Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen in an environment where he's not sautéing up human organs for dinner.

You could also change gears and watch the latest from indie writer/director Lynn Shelton (HumpdayYour Sister's Sister), whose Touchy Feely boasts a great cast (Rosemarie DeWitt, Ellen Page, Allison Janney) and an intriguing expansion of Shelton's modest mumblecore aesthetic.

Movies on TV

HBO's Saturday night premiere movie is the Tom Cruise sci-fi non-starter Oblivion. As disappointing as the movie is on the cool-blockbuster-spectacle level, there are some reasons to watch. Andrea Riseborough is an actress who keeps getting let down by the projects she stars in (that'll happen when you're in W.E.), but she's actually quite good as Cruise's counterpart and love interest. Then there's Melissa Leo's unsettlingly chipper and cornpone performance as "Sally," a kind of mission control for Cruise and Riseborough, which utilizes all of Leo's over-the-top strengths to its best advantage. Finally, there's the M83 score, only one of the best of the year.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.