This week at the movies, we have Matt Damon in China (The Great Wall, co-starring Willem Dafoe), Charlie Day in an argument (Fist Fight, co-starring Ice Cube), and Dane DeHaan in some really gross trouble (A Cure For Wellness, co-starring Jason Isaacs). What are the critics saying?
The idea of a movie starring Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe fighting monsters under the direction of the great Zhang Yimou
sounds awfully hard to resist. It isn’t hard, in other words, to understand how The Great Wall
got made — or envision a picture that lives up to the brilliantly wacky delights suggested by its premise. Unfortunately, critics say this is an instance in which the reality is far less interesting than the concept: Zhang’s brilliant eye and the cool special effects aren’t enough to offset a fundamentally flawed script that buries interesting ideas under clumsy clichés and a scattered narrative. Like many of you, we’d watch either of these guys in almost anything, but The Great Wall
looks like a dismal exception to that rule.
What do Ice Cube, Charlie Day, and onscreen violence have in common? Under the right circumstances, they can all be pretty darn funny. There was good reason, in other words, to hope for the best from Fist Fight
, a comedy about two teachers who end up poised for a physical altercation after looming layoffs and a manipulative principal conspire to put them at odds. Sadly, critics say those hopes have been dashed by the rather uninspired end result, which fails to make much use of its intriguingly matched leads — or any of the other funny people in the cast, including Kumail Nanjiani
and Jillian Bell
— beyond handing them a few decent one-liners. There’s a lot of talent assembled here, so you won’t walk away without a couple of chuckles, but filmgoers hoping for lots of laughs out of Fist Fight
seem likely to be disappointed.
Most people are a little paranoid about getting deathly ill, more than a few of us are at least a little creeped out by hospitals, and many filmgoers would agree that director Gore Verbinski
can send an effective chill down the spine when he’s got a mind to. So A Cure for Wellness
, starring Dane DeHaan in a thriller about a man sent to retrieve his CEO from a spa in the Alps where the methods of treatment may be more troubling than they seem, would appear to have all the necessary ingredients for an enjoyably unsettling night at the movies. Alas, while critics are quick to point out that Verbinski’s distinctive style remains in full effect, this is one exercise in ickiness whose sum is decidedly less than its clammy parts. Those with an extreme fondness for creepy imagery — or tolerance for horror movies clocking in at over two hours in length — may respond to this Cure
; everyone else should probably think about waiting for this to reach the rental market, or simply rewatch some classic Cronenberg instead.
What’s New on TV
Humans continues to quietly distinguish itself in the sci-fi drama category — and prove better than most of its flashier AI competition.
Bitingly funny and highly addictive, Big Little Lies is a twisty, thrilling, enlightening ride led by a first-rate cast.
Doubt struggles with tone in its premiere episode, but ultimately develops into a passable courtroom/workplace drama that is buoyed by a talented cast.
Also Opening This Week In Limited Release
- Keep Quiet (2016) , a documentary about an outspoken latter-day Nazi’s spiritual journey after learning of his Jewish heritage, is at 100 percent.
- You're Killing Me Susana (2016) , about the tempestuous relationship between an actor and his wife, is at 92 percent.
- Everybody Loves Somebody (2017) , about a woman whose attempt to fake a date to a family wedding goes comedically awry, is at 91 percent.
- My Name Is Emily (2015) , about a teenage girl who leaves her foster family behind on a quest to find her father, is at 90 percent.
- XX (2017) , a horror anthology helmed solely by female directors, is at 72 percent.
- Lovesong (2016) , about the highs and lows of a long, complex friendship between two women, is at 69 percent.
- American Fable (2016) , about a girl who makes a fateful discovery on her family farm, is at 57 percent.
- In Dubious Battle (2016) , an adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel directed by and starring James Franco, is at 23 percent.