This weekend at the movies, we have a magical orphanage (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, starring Eva Green and Asa Butterfield), Mark Wahlberg to the rescue (Deepwater Horizon, co-starring Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson), bumbling bank robbers (Masterminds, starring Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig) and an awards-season checkmate (Queen of Katwe, starring Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwanga). What do the critics have to say?
Tim Burton‘s love of ornate visuals and dark whimsy hasn’t always jibed with the mainstream, but with his adaptation of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, he’s tackling a property that’s not only squarely in his wheelhouse, but has enough of an audience to encourage hopes for a blockbuster. Inspired by Ransom Riggs’ YA bestseller, Peculiar follows the adventures of Jake (Asa Butterfield), a grieving boy who stumbles into a time loop populated by strange and wonderful people — just in time to be drawn into their life-or-death battle against a terrifying foe (Samuel L. Jackson). Packed with quirk (and franchise potential), the story sets the table for a cinematic feast of truly Burtonian proportions; unfortunately, reviews describe an end product that’s something less than the sum of its parts. Perhaps too frightening for younger viewers and too loose with the source material for hardcore fans of the books, Burton’s Peculiar Children may prove a hard sell — but one not without its charms for the director’s fans and those seeking something strange and a little dark at the cineplex this weekend.
How do you turn a catastrophic real-life disaster into entertainment? It’s tricky, obviously, but with Deepwater Horizon, director Peter Berg proves it can be done. Inspired by the events leading up to the 2010 oil spill that killed 11 crewmen and left a devastating environmental imprint in the Gulf of Mexico, this ensemble thriller stars Mark Wahlberg as a rig worker who leaps into the fray after the explosion that threatens the lives of his crew — and critics say he does a fine job, along with a list of co-stars that includes Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, and Kate Hudson, while Berg remains a dependably deft hand with a senses-rattling set piece. While many critics have hastened to add that Deepwater might have been more satisfying if it took the time to consider the regional aftermath of the events it dramatizes, reviews still point to an absorbing, well-acted action drama with some extra poignant nonfictional heft.
Comedy is subjective, but even taking individual tastes into account, this weekend’s Masterminds boasts a pretty impressive pedigree: Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon are just a few of the funny people in its ensemble cast, and if that isn’t enough, it also has Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess at the helm — as well as a script inspired by the true story of an absurd bank heist sparked by a toxic blend of greed and unrequited love. Alas, critics say most of that potential is squandered here; although the movie almost can’t help but manage a handful of funny moments, they’re smothered in an aggressively wacky caper that mistakes questionable hairstyles for genuine laughs.
For a cerebral game that may not seem inherently cinematic, chess has served as the backdrop for some pretty entertaining films over the years — a list upon which Disney’s Queen of Katwe can now claim a spot of honor. This inspirational drama finds director Mira Nair commanding a stellar cast led by Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, and starring newcomer Madina Nalwanga as real-life Ugandan chess champion Phiona Mutesi, and although its portrayal of Mutesi’s life might be guilty of indulging in a few stereotypical Hollywood shenanigans, the story of this unlikely prodigy is undeniably compelling. Critics say Nyong’o and Oyelowo deliver outstanding performances, while Nair has earned some of her best reviews since 2002’s Monsoon Wedding. If it’s feelgood fare you seek this weekend, check your local listings for Queen of Katwe.
Uniquely its own, and compelling and poignant as ever, Transparent continues to transcend the parameters of comedic and dramatic television with sustained excellence in its empathetic portrayal of the Pfefferman family.
An immersive, socially conscious narrative and a confident, charismatic lead performance make Marvel’s Luke Cage a stellar sampling of the new Marvel/Netflix universe.
A terrific lead performance and well-constructed setup and timely themes make Pitch a home run.
With an impressive level of quality that honors its source material, the brilliantly addictive Westworld balances intelligent, enthralling drama against outright insanity.
Also Opening This Week In Limited Release