This weekend at the movies, we’ve got an origin story for an evil toy (Annabelle: Creation, starring Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto), an adaptation of an incredible memoir (The Glass Castle, starring Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson), and a squirrel fighting City Hall (The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, featuring the voices of Will Arnett and Katherine Heigl). What are the critics saying?
For filmgoers old enough to remember the days of regularly issued Friday the 13th
and Nightmare on Elm Street
sequels, the idea of a horror franchise that retains its spine-tingling effectiveness as it goes along — to say nothing of actually improving — might sound more than a little absurd. There’s an exception to every rule, however, and the spookily consistent Conjuring
series seems ready to keep making bumps in the night (and at the box office) for the foreseeable future: while 2014’s Annabelle
spinoff failed to resonate with critics, it scared up enough ticket receipts to warrant a sequel — and as reviews for this weekend’s Annabelle: Creation
attest, this is one creepy-looking doll who’s far from finished making filmgoers scream. Critics say this prequel story doesn’t do much audiences haven’t seen before, but for once, the old genre tropes are trotted out in service of a well-told story whose effective scares are bolstered by strong atmosphere and acting. Grab a few friends and get ready for a solidly undemanding horror outing — and maybe plan on sleeping with the lights on for a few nights too.
For those in search of a sadly more realistic brand of horror this weekend, there’s The Glass Castle
, which reunites director Destin Daniel Cretton
with his Short Term 12
star Brie Larson in a dramatization of author Jeannette Walls’ bestselling autobiography. Starring Larson as Walls opposite Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts
as the mother and father of the family, Castle
details the peripatetic lifestyle and abject poverty in which the four Walls children grew up, as well as their painful path to adult independence from their dysfunctional parents. It’s undeniably compelling material for a memoir, let alone a screen adaptation; unfortunately, critics say The Glass Castle
doesn’t quite do it justice, setting out to split the difference between harrowing and heartwarming and failing to fully hit either mark. Still, there’s a tremendous cast here, united in service of one heck of a real-life story, and Castle
‘s stronger elements aren’t always overpowered by its flaws. If you’re in the mood for adult drama or in need of a good cry, this just might hit the spot.
Much of the time, being a movie critic seems like a pretty sweet gig: You get to see the big films before everyone else, you’re being paid to do something most people do for fun, and if you’re lucky and/or talented enough to reach an audience, you enjoy a certain measure of cultural gatekeeper status. There’s a downside to everything, however, and for many film critics, it takes the shape of releases like The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature
. A follow-up to the 2014 original
— which amassed a grim 10 percent on the Tomatometer but raked in more than $120 million worldwide — this installment reunites members of the voice cast (including Will Arnett and Katherine Heigl) for another colorfully animated adventure about talking critters facing a crisis. Will Surly and the gang be able to foil the mayor’s plan to turn their home into an amusement park? We’re pretty sure you can guess how it’ll all turn out, just as you could have predicted critics wouldn’t exactly be enthused about having to turn out for a Nut Job
sequel. Like a lot of poorly reviewed cartoons, Nutty by Nature
should prove reasonably diverting for the youngest audience members, but there’s no shortage of clearly superior alternative options.
What’s New on TV
Mr. Mercedes propels its tense, creepy narrative with quick-witted dialogue, strong characters, and terrifying surprises.
Also Opening This Week In Limited Release
- The Farthest (2017) , a documentary about the incredible journey of the spacecraft Voyager, is at 100 percent.
- L'Ã©conomie du couple (2016) , a French dramedy about the fallout endured by a family after a husband and wife decide to split up but both refuse to leave their home, is at 97 percent.
- In This Corner of the World (2016) , an animated drama about a young Japanese girl’s experiences during World War II, is at 97 percent.
- Whose Streets? (2017) , a documentary look at the civil unrest that erupted in Ferguson, Missouri after the killing of Michael Brown, is at 97 percent.
- Good Time (2017) , starring Robert Pattinson as a failed bank robber trying to work his younger brother and himself out of a desperate situation, is Certified Fresh at 90 percent.
- Ingrid Goes West (2017) , starring Aubrey Plaza as a woman who befriends her celebrity stalking obsession, is Certified Fresh at 85 percent.
- The Trip to Spain (2017) , Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon‘s latest chatty travelogue, is at 82 percent.
- Nocturama (2016) , in which Parisian teens plot to carry off a violent act, is at 80 percent.
- The Ghoul (2016) , about a police detective whose latest case draws him to the brink of a total breakdown, is at 76 percent.
- Pilgrimage (2017) , about the perilous journey undertaken by 13th-century monks transporting a holy relic, is at 74 percent.
- The Nile Hilton Incident (2017) , about a Cairo cop pursuing a case that could expose widespread political corruption, is at 60 percent.
- The Only Living Boy in New York (2017) , about a young man whose first uncertain steps into adulthood are thrown off by the discovery of his father’s affair, is at 25 percent.
- Planetarium (2016) , starring Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp as a pair of fortune tellers lured into a businessman’s world of intrigue, is at 13 percent.