Critics Consensus

Happy Death Day Is Familiar but Fun

Plus, The Foreigner is moderately thrilling, and Professor Marston and the Wonder Women and Marshall are enlightening biopics.

by | October 12, 2017 | Comments

This weekend at the movies, we have a horror movie cousin to a Bill Murray classic (Happy Death Day, starring Jessica Rothe and Ruby Modine), Jackie Chan versus James Bond (The Foreigner, co-starring Pierce Brosnan), a the incredible real-world origins of a comics icon (Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, starring Luke Evans and Rebecca Hall), and the beginnings of a future Supreme Court justice (Marshall, starring Chadwick Boseman and Josh Gad). What are the critics saying?

Happy Death Day (2017) 72%

If you’ve ever gotten to the end of Groundhog Day and wished there’d just been more blood, then this is finally your weekend: Happy Death Day, starring Jessica Rothe as a college student trapped in a gruesome time loop, takes the comedy-rich premise of a fundamentally flawed person forced to relive a single day and combines it with repeated murder. As obvious riffs on an original idea go, this one offers its own unique rewards — and critics say it pretty much delivers, with director/co-writer Christopher Landon managing to split the difference between serving up some mindlessly entertaining scares and offering up some darkly funny commentary on the slasher genre in general. Its solid reviews are impressive of the context of the genre rather than outright amazing, but if you’re in the mood to see a horror movie at your local cineplex this Friday the 13th, Happy Death Day looks likely to scratch — or stab — that itch.

The Foreigner (2017) 66%

The action thriller genre isn’t usually the first place we think to look for examples of actors playing against type, but there are exceptions to every rule — and with this weekend’s The Foreigner, a couple of seasoned pros get to shrug off their typecasting a bit. In one corner, we have Jackie Chan, beloved veteran of a thousand set pieces, as Quan, a man searching for answers after his daughter is killed in a terrorist attack; in the other, we have ex-007 Pierce Brosnan as Liam Hennessy, a British bureaucrat Quan’s convinced is covering up for his former associates. It’s a premise loaded with potential for plenty of the stuff people have come to expect from both stars, but with some twists: Brosnan has an opportunity here to play a morally ambiguous character who might or might not be a bad guy, while Chan, who’s rarely been called upon to flex his dramatic chops in his U.S. features, gets to showcase his range as the grieving dad with a special set of skills. It all adds up to just about enough for critics — although the praise for The Foreigner is about as tempered as you might expect for an autumn action thriller starring two old pros in the post-Taken era, most of the pundits say it’s a pretty good time, with the added benefit of some impressive stunt work from the still impossibly agile Chan. If you’re the target audience for this kind of thing, it should pack plenty of punch.

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women (2017) 87%

Any comic book character that sticks around for more than a few issues tends to build up a pretty interesting backstory, and Wonder Woman — one of the medium’s longest-lasting and most beloved heroes — certainly fits that description. But as this weekend’s Professor Marston and the Wonder Women illustrates, the lasso-wielding defender of justice has a real-life history that’s every bit as interesting — and occasionally just about as colorful — as anything she’s gotten up to on the printed page. Starring Luke Evans as Wonder Woman creator Dr. William Marston, this biopic depicts the forward-thinking views that helped Marston mold the character — and, more importantly, details the many ways in which her development was strongly influenced by the polyamorous relationship between Marston, his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), and their lover Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote). It’s the type of story that could have been given a luridly shallow treatment under different circumstances, but critics say writer-director Angela Robinson has assembled an appropriately thoughtful ode to the behind-the-scenes life of a wonderfully complicated superhero.

Marshall (2017) 80%

During his relatively brief career, Chadwick Boseman has had the opportunity to play some incredible people, real as well as fictional. MCU viewers know him as Black Panther, the Wakandan hero who’ll be getting his own standalone adventure next year, but he’s also starred in films dedicated to Jackie Robinson and James Brown — and he hits the biopic trifecta with Marshall, in which he helps dramatize a chapter in the incredible legacy of future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Instead of offering a life-spanning overview, director Reginald Hudlin‘s picture focuses on one early case that found him forced to rely on a young assistant (Josh Gad) as his courtroom mouthpiece after being silenced by a segregationist judge (James Cromwell). If that makes for a somewhat surprisingly narrow approach, critics say it’s also fairly effective: instead of being forced to make the case for its protagonist as a future great man, Marshall is free to be simply an engrossing legal drama, and as an added bonus, we all know our hero has plenty of future cases left on his docket after the closing credits roll. Perhaps Black Panther isn’t the only potential franchise beckoning on Boseman’s horizon.

Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • Wasted! The Story of Food Waste (2017) , a documentary featuring celebrity chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali explaining widespread efforts to cut down on food waste, is at 100 percent
  • The Departure (2017) , a documentary about a Japanese priest whose job counseling the suicidal makes him more mindful of his own mortality, is at 100 percent.
  • Human Flow (2017) , in which director Ai Weiwei offers a worldwide survey of multiple modern refugee crises, is at 94 percent.
  • The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017) , starring Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, and Adam Sandler in the latest from director Noah Baumbach, is Certified Fresh at 90 percent.
  • 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) , a documentary look at the making of the titular Psycho scene and its wide-ranging cinematic legacy, is at 90 percent.
  • Tom of Finland (2017) , a biopic look at the life and groundbreaking work of Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen, is at 89 percent.
  • For Ahkeem (2017) , a documentary following the experiences of — and challenges facing — a teenage girl in St. Louis, is at 88 percent.
  • Sylvio (2017) , a comedy about a gorilla’s efforts to fit in with human society, is at 82 percent.
  • Alex & Eve (2017) , about a couple worried that their budding love affair will be undone by culture clashes between their families, is at 80 percent.
  • Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017) , a biopic dramatizing the way Winnie the Pooh was inspired by the relationship between author A.A. Milne and his son, is at 65 percent.
  • M.F.A. (2017) , about a student’s increasingly grim quest to come to grips with her sexual assault, is at 60 percent.
  • Breathe (2017) , an Andy Serkis-directed drama inspired by the real-life love story between polio survivor Robin Cavendish and his wife Diana, is at 58 percent.
  • The Secret Scripture (2017) , a drama about the unknown past of a patient in a mental institution, is at 31 percent.

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