A Viewer’s Guide to Weekend Movies: Which Midwinter Also-Ran Would You Prefer?

We're still deep in the movie release season doldrums, and the two new films hitting theaters this week are emphatically meh.

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We're still deep in the movie release season doldrums, and the two new films hitting theaters this week are emphatically meh. You're probably better off staying at home to finish off any last-minute Oscar prep with new movies available on demand and streaming. But if you must head to the theaters ...

In Theaters

In terms of wide releases this week, there aren’t a lot of options. There’s Pompeii for anyone yearning for a portmanteau of sword-fighting, natural disaster porn, and a dramatic love affair set in ancient Rome. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound too great. The plot is something about a slave-turned-gladiator having to fight his way through the arena to save the love of his life before Mt. Vesuvius swallows the city whole. It has a fairly interesting cast, starring Kit Harington (Jon Snow on Game of Thrones), Emily Browning, Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity from The Matrix!), and Kiefer Sutherland. Apparently, though, the cast can't save the plot. Owen Gleiberman, in his review for Entertainment Weekly, quipped, "Is there something about ancient classical settings that inspires actors to act badly?"

The bad news is that Pompeii might be the better of the two new releases this week, the other being 3 Days to Kill. Although there certainly might be people out there who want to spend an hour and a half watching Kevin Costner balance life-threatening espionage with taking care of his teenage daughter, in which case to each his own. Spy thrillers can be great, family movies can be good, but combining the two might not be the best idea. Its 28 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes tells you about all you need to know.

If you're dead-set on going to the movies this week, you might want to stick to a previous release. Like The Lego Movie, which is truly great.

In Limited Release

Limited release, for the lucky few who have access to these films, is looking much better than movies going wide this weekend. The Wind Rises, the latest (and perhaps last) from director Hayao Miyazaki, hits 21 theaters this weekend. It is, unsurprisingly, garnering praise; it's nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, and was the highest grossing movie in Japan last year. Also opening in a very limited release (as in, two New York theaters, the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza) is Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me. A documentary about Stritch's life is sure to be entertaining, if nothing else. I mean, the woman dropped an F-bomb on the Today show. 

Videos on Demand

With a little over a week to go before the big show, this weekend would be a good chance to catch up on nominees and almost-nominees for the Academy Awards. Time Warner has Captain Phillips and Blue Jasmine up on demand, which both scored multiple noms. Also new to on demand this weekend are Lee Daniels' The Butler, All Is Lost, and Fruitvale Station, all of which had a bit of Oscar buzz but failed to gain any notable nominations. Or, if you couldn't care less about the Oscar talk, there's Machete Kills. It's a movie that features Sofia Vergara wearing a machine gun bra, so yeah.

Streaming Online

New to Netflix this week are Sofia Coppola's Somewhere, starring Stephen Dorff as an actor in Los Angeles and Elle Fanning as his daughter; omnisexual workplace thriller/Brian DePalma camp explosion Passion featuring Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace; and the seventh season of Burn Notice. But really, you're probably just going to continue binging on House of Cards.

Movies on TV

Premiering on HBO this Saturday night is Now You See Me, the magician/bank heist thriller that has quite the high-profile cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Melanie Laurent, – [deep breath] – Morgan Freeman, Dave Franco, and Michael Cain all star. Oh, and Common is in it too. It has a 50 percent rating on RT, so it looks like it could go either way. Showtime has the last two Twilight movies back to back starting at 8 p.m. Saturday, so if you've somehow managed to avoid them this long, they're available for your guilty or not-so guilty pleasure viewing.

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