This week at the movies, we have a group of people no one can hear scream (Alien: Covenant, starring Michael Fassbender and Katherine Waterston), the continuing saga of a less-than-assertive young man (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, starring Jason Drucker and Owen Asztalos), and a pair of young star-crossed lovers (Everything, Everything, starring Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson). What do the critics have to say?
The first two chapters in the Alien saga
were so close to flawless that the failures of their subsequent sequels were almost preordained — and yet the allure of the franchise’s sturdy premise continues to prove a powerful draw for audiences as well as the director who helped start it all. With this weekend’s Alien: Covenant
, Ridley Scott
continues building on the Alien
origin story he started in 2012’s Prometheus
, introducing audiences to another ill-fated space crew whose dreams of a utopian mission are destined to go horribly (and gorily) wrong. Like its predecessor, reviews describe Covenant
as a solidly entertaining sci-fi horror outing whose nagging failures are magnified by its evident desire to tackle weighty themes it never satisfactorily addresses — and, of course, its connection to a couple of modern classics. Yet those flaws aren’t enough to keep the majority of critics from recommending the movie, which compensates for a somewhat uneven narrative with strong acting (particularly from Michael Fassbender in a dual role) and plenty of pulse-pounding xenomorph action. And remember, Alien
fans: if you like this, Scott’s got at least a couple more installments up his sleeve.
Aging out of a role is a fact of life for any franchise actor, but time can be particularly cruel to child stars. To wit: the Diary of a Wimpy Kid
series, whose original junior stars are now too old to fit their parts, and have been replaced as part of a top-to-bottom casting overhaul for the fourth installment, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul
. Unfortunately, that roster of fresh faces (which includes Alicia Silverstone
and Tom Everett Scott
as our wimpy kid’s parents) hasn’t improved the franchise’s critical fortunes. While never exactly an acclaim magnet, earlier Wimpy Kid
movies managed middling reviews; not so The Long Haul
, whose road-trip plot opens up the canvas without adding much of actual interest. If your tastes run toward pratfalls and family-friendly scatological humor, make a beeline for the theater posthaste — but for everyone else, this chapter offers a particularly poor substitute for the best-selling books on which it’s based.
A boy, a girl, a seemingly insurmountable obstacle: this is the stuff YA love stories are made of, and Everything, Everything
is no exception. Adapted from Nicola Yoon’s novel, this teen-targeted romance seeks to make viewers swoon over the story of a housebound teenager (Amandla Stenberg) whose rare illness prevents her from leaving the safety of her sterile environment — but can’t keep her from falling for the boy next door (Nick Robinson), who’s determined to be with her despite her condition. If three-hankie romances are your thing, in other words, you’ve seen more than a few variations on this type of thing before, and it won’t surprise you to learn that critics aren’t exactly falling over themselves with praise. On the other hand, in the context of the genre, the limited number of reviews have been somewhat surprisingly kind, describing a viewing experience that — while certainly predictable and a little manipulative — more or less achieves its limited goals. If you’re in the mood to cry in the dark with some strangers this weekend, Everything, Everything
should just about fit the bill.
What’s New on TV
The adorable and insightful — though sometimes grating — titular pet elevates Downward Dog from its potentially “ruff” premise into a sweet, intellectual comedy.
Also Opening This Week In Limited Release
- Elián (2017) , a documentary look at the headline-grabbing tale of young refugee Elián González, is at 100 percent.
- The Survivalist (2015) , a post-apocalyptic drama about the fraught connection between three people fighting for their lives, is at 97 percent.
- Paint It Black (2016) , starring Alia Shawkat as a woman grappling with her grief over the death of her boyfriend — and facing a looming confrontation with his mother — is at 93 percent.
- Icaros: A Vision (2016) , about the unusual bond that develops between a woman and an Amazonian shaman through ayahuasca, is at 86 percent.
- Wakefield (2016) , starring Bryan Cranston as a man who abandons his family under exceedingly odd circumstances, is at 83 percent.
- Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (2016) , a documentary about the only bank indicted in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, is at 81 percent.
- Soul on a String (2016) , about a Tibetan cowboy’s quest to return a sacred stone to a holy mountain, is at 80 percent.
- Afterimage (2016) , about an artist’s increasingly miserable experiences under socialist rule, is at 77 percent.
- The Commune (2016) , about the complex repercussions of a couple’s decision to open their home to a group of strangers, is at 72 percent.