This week at the movies, we have sad Will Smith (Collateral Beauty, co-starring Helen Mirren), even sadder Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea, co-starring Michelle Williams), and Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, starring Felicity Jones and Diego Luna). What are the critics saying?
Not content to rule this year’s box office with a string of hits that already includes Finding Dory, The Jungle Book, Zootopia, Moana, and — oh yeah — a pair of Marvel blockbusters, Disney tops it all off this weekend with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which officially marks the spot where the company’s stewardship of the storied franchise shifts from saga revival to annual event. This standalone feature takes a look at the fledgling Rebellion’s life-or-death quest to steal the Empire’s plans for the first Death Star, and introduces viewers to a (mostly) new cast of characters while making room for a few major cameos from the original trilogy. It’s pretty much a guaranteed smash, in other words — and fortunately for those of us who won’t be able to resist seeing it, critics say it’s also a pretty great time at the movies. While Rogue One may not quite stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best entries in the Star Wars series, reviews describe a thrilling, poignant, and surprisingly dark chapter that honors its predecessors while suggesting intriguing new avenues for its inevitable follow-ups.
For those in search of a more earthbound time at the movies, there’s Collateral Beauty
, starring Will Smith as a high-powered executive whose friends hatch a scheme to draw him back from the emotional abyss after he’s crippled by grief. With that heartstring-tugging premise and a cast rounded out by an ace ensemble that also includes Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet
, Keira Knightley
, and Edward Norton
, this looks like a holiday season winner; unfortunately, looks can often be deceiving, and critics say this is definitely an example. While even its harshest detractors admit the movie’s affecting in spots, it’s fatally undermined by thinly sketched characters and a plot that’s far too obvious with its emotional manipulations. There are far better options if you’re in the mood for a really good cry this weekend — including pretending you’re Smith while reading Collateral Beauty
Speaking of sob-worthy cinema, here’s Manchester by the Sea
, starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams in the tale of a guy whose seemingly aimless drift hits a rocky patch when his older brother (Kyle Chandler
) passes away, leaving him custody of his nephew (Lucas Hedges
) — and sending him back to the hometown where a painful past still haunts him. In a lot of ways, it’s decidedly a downbeat story, but critics say writer-director Kenneth Lonergan
does a brilliant job of walking the line between sobering drama and dismal wallow, aided and abetted by a cast that brings his characters vividly to life. One of the year’s more passionately acclaimed films, it’s already gathering awards buzz — and while it lacks the laser dogfights of its marquee competition this weekend, Manchester by the Sea
exerts its own unique, lingering impact.
What’s New on TV
Despite Queen Latifah‘s strong performance, Lee Daniels’ Star is weighed down by sloppy melodrama and overly cartoonish stereotypes.
Also Opening This Week In Limited Release
- Neruda (2016) , an homage to the Nobel-winning poet from director Pablo Larraín, is Certified Fresh at 100 percent.
- Barry (2016) , a dramatized look at President Barack Obama’s life as a young college student, is at 86 percent.
- The Hollow Point (2016) , starring Patrick Wilson and Ian McShane in a drama about two border town police officers investigating a drug deal gone wrong, is at 43 percent.
- A Kind of Murder (2016) , starring Jessica Biel and Patrick Wilson in a drama about an architect and a crime novelist who become obsessed with an unsolved murder, is at 33 percent.
- Solace (2015) , starring Anthony Hopkins as a psychic drawn into a police investigation, is at 26 percent.