This Week at the Movies: ‘Fifty Shades Darker,’ ‘John Wick,’ ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’

We put our weekly round-up of the new theatrical releases of note on hiatus for a bit because, frankly, there wasn’t much to report; the first weeks of the year are notoriously awful for movies, since all the distributors tend to plan an end-of-year onslaught of prestige pictures and holiday hit hopefuls. But the gears are beginning to grind again – we’ve got three wide releases this week (two of which are actually good!), plus a couple of terrific limited releases.

  • The week’s presumed hit is Fifty Shades Darker, simply because the #branding is strong; the movie, unfortunately, is lousy. If you’re one of the many unfortunate souls who has to suffer through it this weekend, watch this space Monday; we do a little rotating feature that day called Bad Movie Night, and Fifty Shades gave us plenty to work with.
  • If, on the other hand, you’re a grown-up who likes good things, may we suggest John Wick: Chapter 2? It’s got pretty much everything you’re looking for in a sequel to the 2014 sleeper action hit: a sense of humor, graceful (borderline balletic, in fact) fights, and Keanu Reeves shooting lots and lots of people in the face. Here’s our review.
  • If your weekend movie outing is a little more family-oriented – or you’re not in the right mood for mass carnage – you might be surprise by the great time to be offered at The LEGO Batman Movie. Like the 2014 LEGO Movie, it’s a terrible-sounding idea that’s somehow executed with wit and intelligence, this time by taking the opportunity to do a full-on satire of the entire Bat canon (but particularly its more recent, rainy-emo iteration). Our review is here.
  • In limited release, we have Amma Asante’s Belle follow-up, A United Kingdom, the true story of Botswanan Prince Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), his courtship and marriage to a white Brit, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), and their struggle for acceptance in his homeland. It’s grand and sweepingly dramatic in the frankly formulaic based-on-a-true-story ways, but worth seeking out for the considerable chemistry and strength of the two remarkable leads. Here’s what we wrote about it at the Toronto Film Festival.
  • And finally, there’s KEDi, which is a fascinating observational documentary about modern life in Istanbul – as seen through the eyes of the street cats who everyone treats as neighbors and mutual responsibilities. So it’s a lovely little anthropological snapshot; it’s also, like, a really charming 90 minute cat video, so feel fee to enjoy it on that level as well. More in this month’s indie guide.