Big personalities dominate this week's wide releases, neither of which look exquisite. But there are a handful of limited releases that more than make up for it, so not all is lost.
We'll be blunt: You should probably just see X-Men if you haven't yet. But if you insist on seeing one of this week's wide releases ...
Disney's Maleficent might be worth checking out simply for Angelina Jolie's turn as the title character (while you're at it, check out Maleficent O.G. Eleanor Audley). Unfortunately, that seems to be the only thing remotely worthy about the movie. "Given the chance to provide us with a compelling anti-heroine, Disney instead equivocates, goes quickly wishy-washy," and the movie a dull, trite mess, despite Jolie's "truly bewitching" performance, as Richard Lawson writes at Vanity Fair. It's a movie that hinges on Jolie, then, and thus your appreciation for her performance. Which may well be the problem. "Why does Maleficent have to be made into such a softie in order to deserve our support?" writes The Wire's Joe Reid, who notes that Jolie's delicious appeal is allowed to flourish "or one full scene and a few flashes here and there."
Personal bias makes me loath to mention this, but Seth MacFarlane also has a new movie out this weekend. A Million Ways to Die in the West is MacFarlane's trademark Family Guy non sequitur humor recreated in a live-action, full-length film that's set in the Wild West. At Deadspin, Will Leitch wrote: "But if you take away the schtick, all that's left is a shaking, scared nerd right in the middle of the frame, desperately trying to convince us Charlize Theron thinks he's funny and wants to kiss him." In addition to MacFarlane being MacFarlane, the movie also has a problematic portrayal of domestic abuse. This all might very well sound like a nightmare to you, but the movie's 33 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes suggests it's not a nightmare for everyone.
In Limited Release
First we have Lucky Them starring Toni Collette as a music reporter on the hunt for a story about her long lost boyfriend and rock legend, accompanied by Thomas Hayden Church as a documentary filmmaker. Normally we'd assume in a movie like this that Collette and Church end up together, which we would eagerly get behind, but the film has a bit more on its mind. Based on the trailer, the film comes across as a bit of a bore, but if you're in NYC and find yourself so inclined, it's a Toni Collette movie, so i should be an option. It also features the most infuriating cameo in recent movie history, so there's that to look forward to.
The Grand Seduction features Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch in what is one of the more improbable cast pairings recently, and has Gleeson trying to convince Kitsch's doctor to take up residency in his small town of Tickle Head. Honestly, it looks kind of delightful. I mean, people try to play cricket.
Also delightful: We Are The Best, a Swedish film about young punk girls in the 1980s. Seriously, the film's slogan is "Three girls vs. the world." If that doesn't convince you, maybe its 97 percent RT rating will. We can't say anything else about this movie except that it looks awesome. If you have the chance, go see it.
Night Moves, though, is the small-release headliner this week, with Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, and Peter Sarsgaard in a tense eco-thriller from director Kelly Reichardt (Meek's Cutoff; Wendy and Lucy). Eisenberg is having a quietly solid year (Night Moves follows The Double), and Dakota Fanning is poised for a career resurgence, which is a crazy thing to say about a 20-year-old actress, so it's a good thing Dakota is actually 233 years old.
Videos on Demand
Would you rather watch Endless Love, a vacuous, melodramatic Valentine's Day sap-fest with a 15 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, or Run & Jump, in which Will Forte plays a bearded (!) psychologist in Ireland helping a stroke victim recover?Make the right choice.
Streaming on Netflix
The newest season of Ricky Gervais' Netflix-original series Derek is streaming this weekend, but if you're feeling a little adventurous and in the mood for some good ol' fashion learnin', try the documentary Vanishing of the Bees, which explores why exactly honeybees are disappearing. Or there's the horror-at-Disneyland Escape from Tomorrow which likely has a better concept than execution. But we recommend the Bees.
Movies on TV
There's no movie premiering on HBO Saturday evening at 8 p.m. this week – instead it's the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Which, you know, might be interesting, considering Nirvana is being inducted. Besides, the movie on HBO in the afternoon is Date Movie, which is one of the scourge of films to come out of the horrid spoof-movie trend. On Showtime Saturday at 10 p.m. is Alex Cross starring Tyler Perry for now the third time since February. Seriously Showtime, mix it up a little.