A Viewer's Guide to Weekend Movies: Grappling with the Meaning of Human Existence

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Two movies opening this weekend ask the big question: what happens to a person when they die? One of those says they go to Heaven, the other says they become a power-hungry supercomputer. Whichever of those sounds better probably says a lot about you as a human being.

In Theaters

We're stuck in the nebulous period between the early-year studio burn-off releases and the initial rumblings of summer blockbuster season, and this week's wide releases make that fact very evident. 

The "biggest" movie opening is probably Transcendence, which features Johnny Depp as a scientist who uploads his brain to some sort of supercomputer, becoming an all-knowing menace to the world. While it's possible to imagine that plot not making for a terrible film, Transcendence has a 19 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes currently, so it appears to be the worst case scenario. The Wire's David Sims writes that it is "a film that poses a lot of ponderous questions, but they all lack any real dramatic tension." Depp alone will be big enough of a draw for some, and it's always good to see Paul Bettany, but this looks like one of those movies that people go to see just because, ignoring the fact that it's actually awful.

Recommended Reading

Instead, if you're going to see a lackluster film this weekend, why not make it Heaven Is For Real? Sure, it's the feature-length film adaptation of a four year old's tale of his trip to heaven and you're either going to find that astounding or absurd – but either way, it seems like Heaven would be a good time. It's still not getting great reviews, but it's doing far better on RT than Transcendence, and the Burpos' movie is going to make a boatload of money this week. Heaven also has a surprisingly decent cast, featuring Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo, along with Thomas Haden Church and Margo Martindale.

Your other two options for wide releases are A Haunted House 2 (or essentially Scary Movie 7) and Bears, the latest nature film from Disney. Bears is the safest choice here, because it's just 77 minutes of bears doing bear stuff, but Heaven Is For Real is bound to be the most fun theater experience this weekend, for whatever your reasons.

In Limited Release

There's not much notable in the way of small releases this week. Make Your Move is another dance movie in the vein of the Step Up series, and won't be much more than that. The limited release generating some buzz, though, is Fading Gigolo, directed by John Turturro and starring Woody Allen as an elderly pimp. It's rare that Allen acts in films he didn't also write or direct, so that might be a novel enough reason to see Turturro's movie, but it's garnered fairly average reviews (a 57 percent rating on RT) and it's only in five theaters this weekend, so it's likely a pass for you.

Videos on Demand

We'll give you three choices for movies On Demand this weekend: Ride Along with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart, if you just want some laughs; The Nut Job, an animated film about squirrels on a nut heist featuring the voices of Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, Maya Rudolph, and Katherine Heigl, if your kids just want some laughs; or Philomena, featuring an Oscar-nominated Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, if you're feeling spiteful toward the Catholic Church this Easter weekend. 

Streaming on Netflix

After last week's boon to Instant, this week's new-to-streaming movies are decidedly ho-hum. You can watch G.I. Joe Retaliation which has Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Channing Tatum, for all their muscle-y goodness. and wonder why there will be a third G.I. Joe movie, or you can watch Scoop, Woody Allen's film with Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman that came right before Allen started making decent films again (which means this is probably not). There's also The Eagle, if you want another Channing Tatum option. 

Movies on TV

HBO is premiering The Way Way Back on Saturday at 8 p.m., which is a rather pleasant indie coming-of-age story written by Nat Faxon and Community's Jim Rash that would be great for a night-in. Or, on Showtime at 6 p.m. Saturday, is 2012's The Impossible, starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor as a couple caught in the 2004 tsunami. 

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