This week at the movies, we have segregation in the space program (Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer), a monster calling (A Monster Calls, starring Lewis MacDougall and Felicity Jones), and supernatural warfare (Underworld: Blood Wars, starring Kate Beckinsale and Theo James). What are the critics saying?
Certain periods tend to get the historical drama treatment more than others, and the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s has seen more than most. Yet as this weekend’s Hidden Figures capably proves, there are still compelling stories left to tell. Helmed by St. Vincent director Ted Melfi and featuring a stellar cast led by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, Figures shines a spotlight on the efforts of some brilliant NASA employees working in the space program leading up to John Glenn’s historic launch — employees who just happened to be African-American women during a heavily segregated era, and whose contributions helped alter national paradigms in any number of far-reaching ways. It’s inspirational stuff, and critics say Melfi and his cast do right by it; if you’re in the mood for a little fact-based uplift at the movies this weekend, you know just where to look.
The phrase “YA adaptation” tends to bring a certain type of movie to mind, but this weekend’s A Monster Calls
proves the genre is roomy enough to tell all sorts of stories. Starring Lewis MacDougall as a boy struggling to come to terms with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) terminal illness, Monster
blends harsh reality with grim fantasy, imagining a world in which a hulking tree (voiced by Liam Neeson
) comes to him with a series of stories — and a life-or-death challenge. Directed by J.A. Bayon
a from a script written by Patrick Ness
(adapting his own bestselling novel), A Monster Calls
occupies a dark spot that may be too challenging for younger viewers, but critics say it’s dazzling and emotionally affecting viewing, with a depth and resonance that makes it worth absorbing the sadness of the story.
If you’re the sort of filmgoer who has a hankering for multiple movies about the eons-long war between vampires and werewolves, odds are you may not be inclined to put much stock in what critics think — and this weekend’s Underworld: Blood Wars
, the fifth entry in the Underworld
series, proves there’s a substantial number of people who have just such a hankering. Once again, franchise star Kate Beckinsale dons her character’s trademark skintight black leather getup for battle; once again, critics say the results are as narratively drab as the monochromatic color schemes these movies are known for. But if you’ve watched along this far, that probably isn’t much of a deterrent — and if you just want to see vampires and werewolves duke it out, all that other stuff may not matter much anyway.
What’s New on TV
Sherlock makes a welcome and shocking return, and Cumberbatch and Freeman are game, but it may prove difficult to live up to the lofty expectations created by the series’ lengthy hiatus.
Kaitlin Olson‘s considerable charm isn’t enough to keep the intermittently funny The Mick from falling prey to conventional storylines and hard-to-root-for characters.
Also Opening This Week In Limited Release
- The Ardennes (2015) , about the relationship between two brothers in the grim fallout from their botched attempt to get away with a crime, is at 50 percent.
- Railroad Tigers (2016) , starring Jackie Chan in a period action comedy about Chinese freedom fighters striking back against the Japanese military, is at 36 percent.
- Arsenal (2017) , a crime thriller featuring Nicolas Cage and John Cusack, is at zero percent.