Time-Travel Shenanigans, Inspirational Counter-Programming, an Oscar Contender, and More

This week's offerings include a sequel nobody really expected, an inspirational true story from Kevin Costner and Walt Disney Pictures, a Best Foreign Film Oscar nominee, and a little-seen alternate version of a 1980s classic.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

What's it about? More R-rated temporal hijinks propel a second sci-fi comedy with hot tub time travelers Jacob (Clark Duke), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry). Who the devil made it? Hot Tub Time Machine director Steve Pink is back at the helm. Jamie Gross (MacGruber, Childrens Hospital) edited and Declan Quinn, ASC (Rachel Getting Married; Leaving Las Vegas), is the cinematographer. What are the tech specs? It was shot with the ARRI Alexa XT. Mitch Paulson was the colorist at Efilm. Is it any good? Well, shooting took place back in 2013 and the studio didn't exactly rush it into theaters. Furthermore—Rotten Tomatoes: 12%. Metacritic: 30/100. Where's it playing? Everywhere. Will it make any money? The first one was a minor box-office dud, fighting its way to $50 million domestic. But it was a hit on digital formats and became a cable-TV staple. The absence of co-star John Cusack from this film won't help any, but fans of goofy humor may drive another opening in the $13-$15 million range.

McFarland, USA

What's it about? In a true story given the Disney treatment, a coach (Kevin Costner) leads a Latino high school cross-country team from obscurity to championship status. Who the devil made it? Kiwi director Niki Caro is best-known for her 2002 feature debut, Whale Rider; she has been working with editor David Coulson ever since. Co-cinematographer Adam Arkapaw is coming off TV shows True Detective and Top of the Lake; co-cinematographer Terry Stacey, ASC, shot Adventureland, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad DayWhat are the tech specs? Befitting the late-1980s period setting, it's shot with the Arricam Lite on 35mm Kodak Vision3 50D 5203 and Vision3 500T 5219. (via IMDbIs it any good? Apparently so. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 59/100. Where's it playing? Everywhere. Will it make any money? The family-friendly PG rating will earn it some business as counterprogramming, especially since multiplexes are currently full of R-rated fare. The strong reviews won't hurt, either. 

Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes)

What's it about? It's a black-comic anthology film comprising six standalone narratives. Who the devil made it? Damián Szifrón, best-known for producing, writing and directing the hugely popular Argentinian TV series Los Simuladores, wrote, directed and edited. What are the tech specs? Lauded Argentine cinematographer Javier Julia shot mostly with the ARRI Alexa, framing for 2.40:1. The director favored shooting with wide-angle glass (20mm) and low-light scenes were captured with a very fast lens (F1.3). (via CinevivoIs it any good? It showed in competition at Cannes last year, when it was also selected for Telluride and Toronto, and it's nominated for a Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar. So yeah, probably. Also, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 73/100. Where's it playing? At the Arclight Hollywood and The Landmark in L.A. and at the Lincoln Plaza and Landmark Sunshine in New York. Will it make any money? It's a pretty low-profile release but it'll get a boost — and a wider release — if it wins the Oscar on Sunday night. Will it win the Oscar? Maybe. The cinematographers' favorite, Ida, is the presumed front-runner, but buzz is building behind this one.


L.A. Repertory: You could do a lot worse than tonight's retro double feature of Back to the Future and Return to Oz at LACMA's Bing Theater, both part of an AMPAS series looking at costume design in adventure films from 1985. A box-office failure whose reputation has been slowly rehabilitated in the decades since its original release, Return to Oz is the sole feature directed by film-editing and sound-design giant Walter Murch. Admission is $3 for Academy members and a measly $5 for everyone else.


New York Repertory: Speaking of retro, New Yorkers get a shot at a rare Sunday-matinee screening of the 35mm preview cut of director Joe Dante's 1984 monster-movie classic, Gremlins, which runs five minutes longer than the finished film. (Two Judge Reinhold scenes were dropped completely and the ending was changed.) It's part of the annual Film Comment Selects series curated by the folks at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Film Comment magazine—you can read film critic Michael Sragow's all-about-Gremlins interview with Dante at the Film Comment website now.