This weekend at the movies, we’ve got a netscape navigator (Ralph Breaks the Internet, featuring the voices of John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman), a ring rivalry (Creed II, starring Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson), a legendary outlaw (Robin Hood, starring Taron Egerton and Jamie Foxx), an unlikely friendship (Green Book, starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali), and a doomed campaign (The Front Runner, starring Hugh Jackman and Vera Farmiga). What are the critics saying?
2012’s Wreck-It Ralph was a pleasant surprise that succeeded in transcending its various video game references to deliver a smart, engaging comedy for audiences of all ages. But once you’ve explored that world, where do you go next? According to the film’s follow-up, Ralph Breaks the Internet, the answer is the World Wide Web. John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman return to voice Ralph and Vanellope, who venture out into the vast online ecosystem in an effort to save Vanellope’s game, “Sugar Rush,” from being shut down for good. Critics say Ralph Breaks the Internet is a clever, hilarious sequel that both expands on its universe and characters and includes enough web-savvy meta humor to keep kids and adults laughing. Toss in a supporting voice cast that includes Taraji P. Henson, Gal Gadot, and a returning Jane Lynch, and you’ve got another winner from Disney.
In one of the more seamless transitions of the past several years, Sylvester Stallone successfully passed the baton — or the boxing glove, as it were — to Michael B. Jordan, as the Rocky franchise effectively became the Creed franchise. For Steven Caple Jr.’s Creed II, co-writer (and, again, co-star) Stallone tapped into a character defining moment of Rocky’s past to moved Adonis Creed’s own story forward, and critics say it’s a solid effort all around, even if the results are somewhat predictable. This time around, Adonis is challenged by Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the hulking son of the Russian boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) who killed his father Apollo in the ring. Meanwhile, Adonis has also just begun a new chapter in his relationship with Bianca (Tessa Thompson), making his fight with Viktor all the more risky. While there aren’t many surprises to be had in Creed II, critics agree that it’s still an effective drama that resonates on an emotional level and furthers the pugilistic saga in satisfying ways.
The first stories of Robin Hood, the merry outlaw who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, surfaced as early as the 14th century in England, and his tale has been told countless times since then in various forms. Thanks to its inherently cinematic quality, the legend quickly found its way into cinema, and this week brings us the latest iteration of the character on the big screen. In Robin Hood, Taron Egerton plays the rogue archer, who returns from the Crusades to find the evil Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) ransacking the poor and decides to mount a rebellion with his new pal Little John (Jamie Foxx). Critics say Robin Hood makes feeble attempts to modernize the themes and relies too heavily on bombastic action sequences to make up for its thin characterizations, and audiences might be better off seeking out any number of the superior previous adaptations.
Director Peter Farrelly, along with his brother Bobby, struck comedy gold with absurd movies like Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary, so it’s a little surprising that his latest, a solo directorial effort, is a big part of the Oscar conversation. Based on a true story, Green Book stars Viggo Mortensen as a New York bouncer who takes a job as a chauffeur for famous Jamaican pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) during the 1960s. Utilizing a guidebook intended to help black travelers avoid racial confrontations, the pair tour the American Deep South together and forge an unlikely friendship. Critics say Green Book benefits from a smart script that deftly handles some sensitive themes and a pair of charismatic leads who have wonderful chemistry together, and it signals a potentially fruitful new direction for Peter Farrelly.
In 1988, former Colorado senator Gary Hart was a leading Democratic candidate for U.S. President on his way to winning his party’s official nomination until news broke about a possible extramarital affair, which he refused to acknowledge or address. The resulting scandal not only led to Hart dropping out of the race, but also signaled a dramatic shift in the way political news would be covered. This week’s The Front Runner, the latest drama from Jason Reitman, aims to tell that story and shed light on the man at its center, played by Hugh Jackman. While Jackman turns in a magnetic performance as Gary Hart, critics say the film has little room left for any of its esteemed supporting cast — which includes Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, and Alfred Molina, among others — and fails to dive deep enough into its central issues to make a compelling argument. That said, for a look at a strangely forgotten chapter of American politics, The Front Runner is still an interesting reminder of how quickly political celebrity can fade and disappear.
The Little Drummer Girl marches to a steady beat of assured plotting, extraordinary art direction, and a uniformly terrific cast that makes the show’s smolderingly slow burn pace bearable.
Also Opening This Week In Limited Release