This weekend at the movies, we’ve got a sci-fi private eye (Reminiscence, starring Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson), a grieving widow (The Night House, starring Rebecca Hall and Sarah Goldberg), a vengeful assassin (The Protégé, starring Maggie Q and Michael Keaton), and courageous canines (PAW Patrol: The Movie, featuring the voices of Iain Armitage and Marsai Martin). What are the critics saying?
Lisa Joy is best known as the co-creator and co-showrunner of HBO’s Westworld, and this week she makes her feature directorial debut with another similarly ambitious sci-fi project, only this time, she replaces the Western trappings for film noir. In a future Miami ravaged by war and climate change, Hugh Jackman plays Nick Bannister, who runs a business that offers its customers the chance to relive and rediscover their memories. When a mysterious woman named Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) drops in for a visit, captures Nick’s heart, and then disappears, he sets out on an obsessive quest through the past to find her. According to critics, Reminiscence wears its influences on its sleeve — everything from The Maltese Falcon to, yes, Westworld — but doesn’t quite step out of their shadows, and while Jackman and Ferguson are always fun to watch, they’re let down by the writing. At the end of the day, if you’re in the mood for a hard-boiled sci-fi noir, you can catch this in theaters or on HBO Max.
The Night House (2020)
The past several years have seen a surge in moody, atmospheric horror films that trade more in psychological terror than in outright thrills. The latest in that vein comes from director David Bruckner, who established his genre bona fides in movies like VHS, Southbound, and The Ritual and brings us this treat from last year’s Sundance Film Festival. Rebecca Hall stars as Beth, who is reeling from the recent tragic suicide of her husband. Holed up in the lake house he built for her, Beth begins to dig into his past for answers and finds much more than she bargained for. Critics say The Night House is a thoughtful horror film that does a good job upending viewer expectations and benefits from a stunning central performance from Hall. It may not boast the highest scream-per-minute average, but it’s a solid choice for anyone looking for a few chills.
The ProtÃ©gÃ© (2021)
Following in the footsteps of recent films like Atomic Blonde, Peppermint, and The Rhythm Section, among others, is this action thriller about a female assassin out for revenge. Maggie Q stars in The Protégé as, well, the protégé of a legendary hitman named Moody (Samuel L. Jackson) who saved her as a child and raised her to become a killer herself. When Moody is murdered, Q’s Anna allies herself with a mysterious man (Michael Keaton) to learn who did it and how to find them. It’s probably no surprise that critics are saying The Protégé feels like overly familiar stuff, or, on the flip side, that Maggie Q makes a formidable action star. With Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) at the helm, though, be prepared for some wild stunts and more-graphic-than-you-might-have-expected violence, even if it’s not as stylish as it wants to be.
PAW Patrol: The Movie (2021)
Those of you who have kids — or younger siblings, or nieces and nephews — are probably already familiar with the popular children’s television series PAW Patrol, which centers on the adventures of a young boy named Ryder and his team of emergency rescue dogs. Well, now there’s a movie for it, aptly titled PAW Patrol: The Movie, and frankly, we’re a little surprised it took eight years for that to happen. In any case, if you need to keep the little ones entertained for an hour and half, this first film adaptation of the cartoon follows the PAW Patrol’s efforts to stem the chaos that erupts when Mayor Humdinger takes over Adventure City. If that sounds about as standard as a children’s movie plot can get, you may be surprised to learn that most of the critics who have seen it so far say it’s actually surprisingly delightful. Sure, it’s fairly straightforward in its messaging and there are moments when it’s crystal clear who its target audience is, but it’s also strangely refreshing to see kids’ entertainment this earnest and joyful. Catch this one in theaters or on Paramount+.
Thumbnail image by Warner Bros. Pictures