MOVIE BUFF-ET: Smorgasbord of new films open this week in theaters

Three Identical Strangers

Late August and early September is known to be a dumping season for films that studios don’t believe would be competitive in a busier time of the year.

With families squeezing in late-summer vacations and kids going back to school, it’s a traditional time of lower attendance spaced between the blockbuster fare of the summer, and the the more serious, Oscar-chasing season of the fall and early winter.

New In Local Theaters

  • The Happytime Murders (R) 1 hr. 31 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Rogers Towne, Malco Springdale, Bentonville Skylight)
    » Watch trailer
  • A.X.L. (PG) 1 hr. 38 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills)
    » Watch trailer
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey IMAX (G) 2 hrs 44 min.
    (Malco Razorback)
    » Watch trailer
  • Beautifully Broken (PG-13) 1 hr. 48 min.
    (Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills)
    » Watch trailer
  • Puzzle (R) 1 hr. 43 min.
    (Malco Razorback, Malco Rogers Towne)
    » Watch trailer
  • Three Identical Strangers (PG-13) 1 hr. 36 min.
    (Malco Razorback)
    » Watch trailer
  • Papillon (R) 2 hr. 13 min.
    (Malco Pinnacle Hills)
    » Watch trailer

Often studios dump films into cineplexes at this time to give them a quick theatrical run before shuffling them off to to a Blu Ray/DVD release, video-on-demand services, and cable TV. It’s generally not as fallow of a period as January and early February, but sometimes the pickings are very slim.

However, that’s not exactly the case this weekend as several interesting new offering fall into our laps along with a couple of possible clunkers.

Here’s a brief rundown of several films opening this weekend in Northwest Arkansas. If you are interested in seeing any of them in the theater, you might act fast. They may not be in theaters long.

Papillon” is a remake of the classic 1973 film which starred Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman and was based on the 1969 autobiography of French convict Henri Charriere.Charriere was imprisoned in a French Guiana for a crime he didn’t commit. Both films detail the struggle and torture he faced as well as his escape attempts with his friend Louis Dega from the island prison camp. Charlie Hunnam plays Charriere in the remake and Rami Malek plays Dega. I like Hunnam and Malek a great deal. Even though Bleeker Street Studio isn’t showing a lot of faith in the film opening it now, the story is compelling, and I’m going to take a chance on this one.

However, the documentary “Three Identical Strangers” is the movie opening today I’m most interested in seeing. Directed by Tim Wardle, the film details how triplets were adopted by three different American families of different social classes as part of a nature-versus-nurture experiment. The brothers discover each other at the age of 19, and to be expected, each has many questions that need to be answered. This is a film expected to challenge “Would You Be My Neighbor” for Best Documentary at the next year’s Academy Awards.

Puzzle” is a romance starring Kelly McDonald (“Boardwalk Empire” and “No Country for Old Men”) as a suburbanite woman who begins to question her marriage and her life after teaming up New York City man (Ifran Khan) for a jigsaw-puzzle tournament in Atlantic City. This looks like a good one, to me.

A.X.L.,” however” doesn’t. It’s the story of a teen-ish couple who discover a super-powered, android-type dog that no doubt escaped from some secret government project. See this one at your own risk.

The Happytime Murders” is a comedic Film Noir starring Melissa McCarthy set in a world where humans and muppets co-exist, and the muppets are just as filthy and nasty as their human counterparts, maybe even more. Word is the movie is funny, but it will be very offensive to some. Worst of all, though, the best gags are reportedly in the trailer.

Beautifully Broken” is the story of three families from three different African nations and the struggles and ordeals they face in their war-torn countries, and how each one gains strength and hope as their plights intersect.

While “A.X.L.” smells like a dog (pun intended), the other movies appear to be a few of steps above much of the forgettable fare released at this time of the year.

Classic Corner

2001: A Space Odyssey

“2001: A Space Odyssey” is an unqualified science-fiction classic from the late Stanley Kubrick based the Arthur C. Clarke short story “The Sentinel,” but this week the 1968 epic is going to screened and seen in a fashion that Kubrick never imagined in IMAX.

For full discloser, I have never watched “2001: A Space Odyssey” from start to finish. Yeah, shame on me.

I have probably seen it all in parts at variously times over the last 40 years, but every time I’ve attempted to watch it in full I have been interrupted.

With it showing in IMAX this week at the Malco Razorback, I hope to rectify this glaring omission from my personal viewing list, and I can’t think of a better way than to see the film than on a massive IMAX screen.

The re-release is in honor of the film’s 50th anniversary, and I am looking forward to finally watching this movie from stem to stern on the largest screen locally available.