This weekend, themes of family, love and redemption abound in the new releases coming to theaters near you.
In “Onward,” Pixar’s much-anticipated 22nd animation feature, Tom Holland and Chris Pratt play two elf brothers presented with a special gift to spend a day with their late dad. But first, they have to learn about magic and casting spells.
In the sports-drama genre, “The Way Back” comes to life starring Ben Affleck as a broken soul who finds his path to redemption while coaching a high school basketball team.
Those who are seeking a true-life story can check out “Burden,” in which Garrett Hedlund plays the titular role of a Klansman who ultimately leaves the organization, aided by his girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough) and a black minister (Forest Whitaker).
Here’s what to see and what to skip this weekend:
“Onward” — Tom Holland, Chris Pratt; directed by Dan Scanlon
“Onward,” Pixar’s 22nd film, is the animation juggernaut’s first original feature since 2017’s “Coco.” Directed and co-written by Dan Scanlon, the new film about familial love takes place in a fantastical world where magic was once a delight in the denizens’ lives. Then, modern age came, rendering wizardry obsolete and redundant in all walks of life.
Enter two pointy-eared elves, the timid Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland) and his goofy, older brother Barley (voiced by Chris Pratt), who are about to get the biggest surprise of their lives.
On Ian’s 16th birthday, his mom (voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) presents the boys with a special gift left by their late father — a magical package containing a gemstone and a spell to bring their beloved dad back for a full 24 hours.
However, when Ian tries to cast the spell, the teenager runs into magical mishap. The result? Their dad returns — but only from the waist down, with a disembodied pair of khaki-covered legs.
And so begins the siblings’ quest to find another enchanting stone to complete the spell before it’s too late. Meanwhile, their dad amazes the boys with explosive dance numbers.
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See it. While “Onward” lags and drags at times, the Pixar magic ultimately saves the movie with stunning visuals and a sentimental ending.
Watch the trailer:
“The Way Back” — Ben Affleck, Janina Gavankar; directed by Gavin O’Connor
Ben Affleck reunites with his “The Accountant” director Gavin O’Connor in the sports drama about one man’s path to redemption while grappling with substance abuse.
In the film, Affleck plays Jack Cunningham, a middle-age man whose life is obviously in a downward spiral because of his excessive addiction to alcohol.
Alone and miserable, he chugs his first can of beer in his morning shower. During the day, he also drinks on his construction job — even if it means pouring booze into his coffee cup to get his fix. And, sadly, his self-destructive behavior continues at a local bar every night.
Then, in a sudden twist of fate, Jack gets an offer to coach a basketball team at his old high school, where he was once a basketball-phenom star. Our hero wrestles with the idea at first, but he eventually accepts the coaching gig. And as it turns out, the job is extremely challenging, given the boys’ lack of team spirit.
In the end, however, under Jack’s guidance, care and discipline, the boys will be on their road to victory. And, more importantly, so will Jack, in his attempt to face his personal demons and reclaim his life.
See it. Affleck’s portrayal of a broken soul drowning in emotional pain is emphatically sublime and heartfelt, though the movie’s fourth act feels a bit rushed.
Watch the trailer:
“Burden” — Andrea Riseborough, Garrett Hedlund, Forest Whitaker; directed by Andrew Heckler
Winner of the 2018 Sundance Audience Award, Andrew Heckler’s feature directorial debut tells the true-life story of a Klansman who ultimately chooses to leave the KKK and his violent past to pursue a better life.
The opening sequence of the movie shows the titular character, Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund), his boss, KKK leader Griffin (Tom Wilkinson) and their friends renovating an old theater in a small South Carolina town in 1996. Moments later, the building is now open for business as “Redneck KKK Museum,” a museum celebrating the Klan’s horrific legacy.
Soon, religious leader and social activist the Rev. David Kennedy (Forest Whitaker) leads a protest against the Klan museum. Shockingly, in the process, he finds an ally in Burden, who — after falling in love with single-mother Judy (Andrea Riseborough) — leaves the KKK.
However, Griffin vows to lure Burden back into the fold by hook or by crook, setting in motion an unavoidable collision course with both Burden and Kennedy. Can Burden prevail?
See it. A true story of forgiveness, redemption and love, “Burden” is profoundly meaningful. Be prepared for its slow-burn pace.
Watch the trailer:
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