This weekend at the movies, we have some super friends (Justice League, starring Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot), a one-of-a-kind boy (Wonder, starring Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, and Owen Wilson), and a talking donkey (The Star, featuring the voices of Steven Yeun and Gina Rodriguez). What are the critics saying?
Relatively rare is the modern blockbuster that hasn’t felt at least a few of the flames in development hell, but even by those standards, Justice League
has taken a very long road to theaters. Warner Bros. has struggled with how best to adapt this flagship DC property for years — fans may recall the 1997 TV series that never got off the ground, as well as the George Miller movie that nearly started filming before being derailed by the 2007-’08 writers’ strike and a fight over Australian tax credits. It wasn’t until Zack Snyder
took the helm of the DC Extended Universe
that things really started shaping up, and even with the multimillion-dollar momentum of that franchise behind it, this movie has had to power through all manner of behind-the-scenes turmoil.
All of which is to say that while it takes a ton of luck, hard work, and investors’ money to get any movie made, this one has always seemed a little more star-crossed than most, and it’s kind of amazing that it’s actually really here. And it would be lovely to report that all the extra time and effort paid off on the screen — that the first big team-up between Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and the Flash (Ezra Miller) is every bit as amazing as its superpowered central characters. Alas, the DCEU’s long streak of critical misfortune seems destined to continue here: although reviews describe an all-star outing that’s altogether more entertaining than many of the franchise’s other entries, it’s still fatally undermined by a number of glaring flaws, including a muddled plot, tonal mishmash, and a villain made out of distracting CGI. There’s still hope for these heroes on the big screen, but their first joint outing is decidedly less than the sum of its parts.
If you have kids — or your literary tastes run to YA fiction — then you’re no doubt already familiar with Wonder
, the bestselling R.J. Palacio novel about a good-hearted boy finding his way in the public school system while struggling to make friends in spite of a genetic disorder that affects his appearance. Like a lot of the best entries in the genre, the story is a message delivery mechanism that still packs a wallop of an emotional punch, which is why it’s become enough of a widespread favorite to inspire a companion novel, a spinoff book, and now a family-friendly film starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and — as our young hero Auggie — breakout Room
actor Jacob Tremblay.
Needless to say, this is the type of movie that means to leave the audience with a good-sized lump in its collective throat, and critics say it’s to Wonder‘s credit that director Stephen Chbosky doesn’t shy away from the story’s mile-wide sentimental streak — and that he’s working with a cast gifted enough to anchor the material with honesty and bring its characters fully to life. It’s a slow softball over the middle of the plate for audiences in the mood to watch something with an uplifting message, in other words — but it’s also skillfully crafted enough to win over viewers who pride themselves on staying dry-eyed during a movie’s most heartwarming moments.
Christmas is getting closer, and the cineplex has already shifted into yuletide gear. We’ve already had A Bad Moms Christmas
and the holiday-themed Daddy’s Home 2
— and this weekend, we’re getting The Star
, an animated retelling of the First Noel. We all know the story, of course, but this version offers a different perspective: instead of Mary, Joseph, and their immaculately conceived little bundle of joy, The Star
follows the adventures of a donkey named Bo (Steven Yuen), a sheep named Ruth (Aidy Bryant
), and a dove named Dave (Keegan-Michael Key
). Rounded out by an eclectic voice cast that also includes Kelly Clarkson
, Gina Rodriguez, and Zachary Levi
, this Sony production boasts a little more mainstream star power than your average faith-based offering — and broader entertainment value, according to critics who say this animated outing works as a perfectly serviceable way to spend 96 minutes at the theater with your kids. It may not bump A Christmas Story
or Home Alone
out of your family’s annual holiday viewing rotation, but it looks a lot better than that one where Dudley Moore was an elf, and that should definitely count for something.
What’s New on TV
A rocky start can’t keep The Punisher from pushing the boundaries of Marvel’s TV universe with a fresh take on the comics-derived action thriller.
Also Opening This Week In Limited Release
- Mr. Roosevelt (2017) , about an aspiring star who’s forced to confront old relationships and memories when she’s called home to deal with an emergency, is at 100 percent.
- Mudbound (2017) , about the ties and conflicts between two Mississippi Delta farming families after World War II, is Certified Fresh at 96 percent.
- On the Beach at Night Alone (2017) , writer-director Hong Sang-soo‘s elliptical look at star-crossed, unrequited, and lost love, is at 95 percent.
- A Fantastic Woman (2017) , a drama depicting the complicated aftermath of a man’s death and its impact on his trans lover, is at 94 percent.
- Big Sonia (2016) , a documentary about the stranger-than-fiction life — and larger-than-life personality — of a nonagenarian Holocaust survivor, is at 86 percent.
- Sweet Virginia (2017) , in which the residents of a remote Alaskan town find their cloistered existence upended by the arrival of a mysterious stranger, is at 82 percent.
- The Breadwinner (2017) , the animated odyssey of a young girl in post-Taliban Afghanistan, is at 82 percent.
- Song of Granite (2017) , a look at the life and legacy of traditional Irish sean nós performer Joe Heaney, is at 78 percent.
- Angelica (2015) , a Victorian drama with supernatural horror overtones, is at 67 percent.
- Porto (2016) , starring Anton Yelchin and Lucie Lucas as two people who share a brief but meaningful connection, is at 59 percent.
- Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017) , starring Denzel Washington as a defense attorney whose idealistic nature is put to the test personally and professionally, is at 50 percent.