To absolutely no one’s surprise, Deadpool held on to the number one position at the box office. To give you some perspective on the picture’s success, Deadpool’s $56,470,167 (down 57.4% from the previous week) is in line with its opening weekend projections, and $15 million higher than the next four top grossing films combined ($41,320,523). Kung Fu Panda 3 ($12,516,601, down 36.6%) narrowly edged out Risen ($11,801,271) for second place. And in another close fight, The Witch ($8,800,230) finished just ahead of How to Be Single ($8,202,430 down 54.1%).
Here’s a look at some films opening on February 19, 2016.
Gods of Egypt (PG-13) 127 mins. — I’m a fan of Gods of Egypt’s director, Alex Proyas. His films, The Crow and Dark City are bonafide cult classics; I thoroughly enjoyed I, Robot, and even liked elements of the mess that is Knowing. Proyas’ skill as a director makes it all the more disheartening that nothing about Gods of Egypt has me the least bit excited. Actually, my feelings towards the movie are much closer to repugnance. Let’s start with the trailer: it’s overloaded with CGI, campy dialogue, and actors hamming it up. The critical consensus on the movie is just as foreboding (it’s sitting at 16% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes). Sadly, the aforementioned drawbacks aren’t even the film’s most egregious offense. Gods of Egypt is unabashedly guilty of Hollywood white-washing. I’ll let Alex Proyas himself explain why:
I cast the best actors for the roles. I stand by these decisions. The casting is an attempt to include ALL people – partly suggestive of the Egypt I know based on my own cultural heritage, but clearly and most importantly a work of the “imagination” — to exclude any one race in service of a hypothetical theory of historical accuracy, particularly in a film that is not attempting to be “history”, rather a fantasy film, would have been biased.
Had Proyas left it at, My Bad, he may have received the benefit of the doubt. His convoluted explanation (you can read it in detail, here) is like catching a cheating spouse with their pants down while their hand is also in the cookie jar. Proyas makes the ludicrous argument that excluding white actors would result in a greater bias. Studios never seem to throw this type of logical ninjitsu out in favor of minority casting. In a month where the Oscars received an unprecedented amount of flak for racial exclusion, Proyas’ statement takes on an additional layer of crazy.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (PG-13) 96 mins. — Sword of Destiny is the follow up to Ang Lee’s martial arts infused masterpiece, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This release has me as curious as I am excited. First off, this movie is an experiment in progressive distribution models. Sword of Destiny is a joint distribution project between Netflix and The Weinstein Company. The film was supposed to launch in theaters and on Netflix back in August of 2015, however, the movie’s release date was pushed back to 2016. Movie theater owners objected to helping promote Sword of Destiny while audiences had the option of watching the movie at home. Netflix has offered original movies in the past (Beasts of No Nation, The Ridiculous 6), however, Sword of Destiny marks the first time a sequel to a critically acclaimed film went straight to Netflix.
16 years is a long time to for a franchise to lay dormant, and I’m hoping that this production is a case of talented people coming together to make an inspired film rather than a blatant Hollywood cash-grab. On the plus side, legendary fight choreographer, Yuen Woo-Ping is directing. If nothing else, I promise that Sword of Destiny will offer stunning action set-pieces. Need proof? Yuen Woo-Ping either directed or choreographed the fight sequences in Drunken Master, Iron Monkey, Tai Chi Master as well as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Mainstream American audiences will recognize his unforgettable work in The Matrix trilogy and the Kill Bill movies.
The Bottom Line – This weekend’s new releases offer plenty of variety at the local multiplex. Gods of Egypt is all set to dole out big budget, mind-numbing spectacle; Eddie the Eagle presents audiences with inspiring, feel-good dramedy; and whether or not Triple 9 is any good, it’s so loaded with talent — Casey Affleck, Kate Winslet, Anthony Mackie, Woody Harrelson — that there must be at least one performance worth the price of admission (my money is on Chiwetel). I’m a huge fan of wuxia movies, so I’ll be at home, engrossed in a Yuen Woo-Ping/Crouching Tiger binge session.