Critics Consensus

American Made Is Certified Fresh

Plus, Battle of the Sexes, Stronger, and Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 are all Certified Fresh, and guess the Tomatometer for Flatliners and A Question of Faith.

by | September 28, 2017 | Comments

This weekend at the movies, we have Tom Cruise racking up some seriously ill-gotten gains (American Made, co-starring Domhnall Gleeson), Ellen Page leading a group of med students (temporarily) to their deaths (Flatliners, co-starring Diego Luna), a landmark tennis match (Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell), a group of people at an unexpected spiritual crossroads (A Question of Faith, starring Richard T. Jones and C. Thomas Howell), and Jake Gyllenhaal triumphing over adversity (Stronger, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany). What are the critics saying?

American Made (2017) 86%

Tom Cruise has scored hits in a variety of genres, but audiences have always loved him best when he’s playing to the type that made him famous: a rakishly charming good guy, with just enough of a cocky rogue’s personality to allow for some fun one-liners and an interesting character development arc. American Made, which reunites Cruise with his Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman, doesn’t quite hew to that formula — but according to critics, it comes close enough to scratch that nostalgic itch while smartly subverting a number of expectations. Cruise stars as Barry Seal, the real-life airline pilot who flipped from drug smuggler to DEA informant, and Liman (working from a script by Gary Spinelli) takes full advantage of a setup that puts the Top Gun hero back in the cockpit and calls for all manner of toothy grinning along the way. Whether you’re after a thought-provoking real-life story or just in the mood for that vintage Cruise control, it looks like American Made is a pretty safe bet.

Flatliners (2017) 4%

The philosopher George Santayana told us that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it — words of wisdom clearly lost on Dr. Courtney Holmes (Ellen Page), who triggers the events of this weekend’s new Flatliners by trying to perfect the death-defying experiments performed by med student Nelson Wright (Kiefer Sutherland) in the movie’s 1990 predecessor. Determined to discover what lies on the other side of life, Holmes and her cohorts follow in Wright’s footsteps… and just like before, it isn’t long until stuff starts to go supernaturally awry. Unfortunately, just as we can’t say for sure whether there’s an afterlife or tell you what might be waiting there, we’re unable to inform you whether the critics have signed off on the 2017 Flatliners, because it wasn’t screened for critics. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for those of you who head out to any Thursday night showings; meanwhile, as we’re waiting for a consensus to develop, let’s all gather ’round for a game of Guess the Tomatometer.

Battle of the Sexes (2017) 85%

It can be easy to feel discouraged about how far we have to go in terms of truly achieving equal rights for all American citizens. But we’ve also come a pretty long way — just over the last few decades — as this weekend’s Battle of the Sexes ably attests. Inspired by the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (played by Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), this dramedy from Little Miss Sunshine directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris looks back with bemusement on the rampant sexism that produced the deep financial inequality leading to King and Riggs facing off, but it isn’t all laughs; although King won the match, a number of the issues she faced then are still with us now, and critics say Battle draws some strong, subtle parallels between its period setting and the present day. Topping it all off are strong performances from a solid cast, led by a fearlessly buffoonish Carell and what some scribes are calling career-best work from Stone.

A Question of Faith (2017) 40%

Whatever else you can say about A Question of Faith, there’s no doubt that it stars this week’s most eclectic ensemble. Facts of Life vet Kim Fields and ’80s heartthrob C. Thomas Howell head up the cast of this drama, in which the lives of three families collide after a series of mishaps that leave dreams in doubt and convictions tested. Actually, that is all we can say about A Question of Faith, because it wasn’t screened for critics. You know what that means: it’s time once more to play Guess the Tomatometer!

Stronger (2017) 90%

What’s the difference between being held up as a hero and simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time? For Jeff Bauman, a 2013 Boston Marathon spectator who was among those maimed in the terrorist attack that marred the event and gripped the city in fear, there might not be much difference at all — which is what makes Stronger, an adaptation of Bauman’s memoir starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the author, such a compelling biographical drama. Critics say that in refusing to shy away from the real-life Bauman’s flaws — or turn a blind eye to his tumultuous relationship with Erin Hurley (Tatiana Maslany), the on-again, off-again girlfriend he was at the marathon to support — the movie does its audience a service by trusting them to identify with its protagonists as recognizably human beings, not to mention giving its stars an opportunity to shine. Working from a screenplay by John Pollono, director David Gordon Green delivers his most affecting drama in years; even if you haven’t run a step since high school P.E., Stronger lives up to its name.

What’s New on TV

Star Trek: Discovery: Season 1 (2017) 83%

Although it takes an episode to achieve liftoff, Star Trek: Discovery delivers a solid franchise installment for the next generation — boldly led by the charismatic Sonequa Martin-Green.

The Good Doctor: Season 1 (2017) 62%

The Good Doctor‘s heavy-handed bedside manner undermines a solid lead performance, but under all the emotionally manipulative gimmickry, there’s still plenty of room to improve.

Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

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