Here are some of the best options from the wide releases if you are heading out to theaters this weekend.
La La Land - This movie could've gone wrong in a lot of ways, it's an old Hollywood style musical about a young couple in modern Hollywood whose dreams appear just out of reach. But it works, it all works! Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are both terrific, the movie's got a spring in its step as it hops from set piece to set piece and the story is just as engaging as the visuals and music. Prepare to leave the theater Happy-Sad or maybe Sad-Happy. One of the best movies of the year.
Rogue One - The box office would indicate that most of you have seen this already, but I know for a fact there are a few stragglers. You may be surprised to learn that one of the hosts of The Film Coterie has still not seen this movie, I won't reveal which of us it was, but shame on him nonetheless. Rogue One reveals the story surrounding the heist of the Death Star plans, which was originally laid out in the opening crawl of A New Hope. We meet a lot of new characters and see the heavy price that the Rebellion paid to get their hands on those plans. The third act really delivers and may have been the best finale to any blockbuster this year.
Split - I'm writing this on Friday, but I have the feeling you will be reading a lot more about this on Monday for reasons I will leave undisclosed (for now). The best description that I have read for Split is that it is an elevated B-movie. Elevated mainly by James McAvoy's performance as the multi-personality villain. It's not just that he plays a lot of different personalities, it's that sometimes he masterfully plays one personality impersonating a different personality and if you watch just close enough you can catch some interesting tells he leaves for the viewer. Between this and The Visit, M. Night Shyamalan is doing his best to work his way back into the good graces of the movie-going public after the astoundingly bad run that was Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth.
Arrival - It looks like this film is making its way back into theaters in time for award season and you should definitely check it out if you haven't already. Arrival is the best movie about language and communication ever. It's a beautiful shot and heady Sci-FI movie about us (humans) trying to communicate with a race of aliens and learn why they have come to our planet. The movie dives deep into our relationship with language and even how language wires our brains to think and process information. There are no action scenes in this movie, no chases, and no showdowns between good and evil. The tension comes from the race between nations to be the first to decipher the aliens' purpose. Have they come to hurt us? Help us? Offer us tools? Offer us weapons? And if you've never seen a film by Denis Villeneuve, I envy you. Because that means that you still get to discover Sicario, Prisoners, and Enemy for the first time, which you should do at your earliest opportunity.
Elle - I need to put some serious disclaimers on this movie, because it is a tough movie to watch. Elle opens with the rape of Michelle, the main character, in her home. You need to understand that this movie will go to some darker and even more uncomfortable places from there. If you can handle the admittedly tough subject matter, what you are about to experience is one of the most complex and fascinating movies of the year. Michelle is clearly a sociopath and has interesting relationships with her mother, her father, her son and his girlfriend, her co-workers, and her neighbors. Each one of these story relationships is well-written and has an important impact on the story. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen a film handle so many interesting relationships so well. Her attacker continues to taunt her and her investigation reveals a lot of potential suspects. This movie never goes in the direction you think it's going to go and could prove to be one of the best film discussions of the year.