"Winchester" opened on a bad weekend, and I mean that on two fronts. The first is that it's the weekend of the Super Bowl, so the movie can kiss its Sunday evening audience goodbye. The second is that we're only four weeks removed from "Insidious: The Last Key," and the movies are awfully similar. For starters, they share an actor - Angus Sampson plays a blowhard ghost chaser in the "Insidious" movies, here he plays a construction worker. And there's no denying the similarities between the fair-haired authoritative older women, played in "Insidious" by Lin Shaye and here by Helen Mirren.
"Maze Runner: The Death Cure" really missed out on the "YA book series set in a dystopian future" bandwagon. That trend essentially ended when "The Hunger Games" went out with a relative whimper in 2015. Or maybe it was when the third "Divergent" movie bombed so horribly in 2016 that the fourth movie was postponed indefinitely. This movie would have been considered a pathetic straggler if it had opened in 2016 or 2017 like it was supposed to, and then star Dylan O'Brien suffered an injury that severely delayed production.
"12 Strong" is one of those January movies that wants people to think that it's in awards contention even though it isn't. We're at the point in the year when movies that opened in limited release in December are starting to go wide because of awards season. "The Post" from last week followed that template; it's technically a 2017 movie and it wants recognition as one of the best films of 2017, but it's content to do most of its business in 2018.
It's hard to talk about "The Post" without talking about how the film is clearly trying to dominate awards season. A good place to start is with the Oscar pedigree among its cast and crew. Tom Hanks is a five-time Best Actor nominee, famously winning two years in a row in the mid-90's. Meryl Streep is a 20-time nominee, winning three times. Producer and Director Steven Spielberg is a 16-time nominee, winning three times and also receiving the special Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award.
"Insidious" is one of those horror franchises that likes to jump around a lot in its timeline. "The Last Key" takes place second out of the four films. The story follows paranormal problem-solver Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) and her techies Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) as they investigate yet another haunting... but this time, it's personal! Okay, we never get that cheesy line, but it is personal, and I wish we did.
When we last saw the a cappella group The Bellas in "Pitch Perfect 2," most of them were graduating college and the sky was the limit for their futures. But, as we see in clips of a documentary being made by the franchise's oddly Bella-obsessed commentary team (John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks), things aren't so sunshiny out in the real world. For example, Beca (Anna Kendrick) can't stand her job as a music producer because the artists don't like being told that they're not talented enough to produce their tracks themselves.
"Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" bears very little resemblance to its 1995 predecessor. That film was about a jungle-themed board game that invaded our world. This movie is about a jungle-themed video game that sucks players into its world. It's probably better that this film goes in a different direction. All the inevitable jokes about the displaced animals invading suburbia and becoming Internet sensations would get old real quick.
2015's "The Force Awakens" breathed new life into the "Star Wars" saga. For years the franchise had slowly been undone by ill-received prequels, retouchings, and add-ons that made the once-great property look like a money-grubbing joke. "The Force Awakens" restored heart to the series, balance to the Force, if you will. Fans were excited about the new direction of the franchise and wondered where it would take them next.
NOTE: This movie is playing on less than 1,000 screens in the country, so it might not yet be in your area. But its popularity is growing, so be on the lookout for it in the coming weeks.
2015's "Room" never reached a wide enough audience to justify a review from me, but if it had, I would have absolutely gushed over the performance of then-7-year-old actor Jacob Tremblay. It was the kind of breakout performance that instantly guarantees an actor a lifetime of work in Hollywood. Brie Larson, who played Tremblay's mother in the film, won the Academy Award for Best Actress, and I'd argue that he acted circles around her.