Critics Consensus

The Upside Doesn't Have Much of One

Plus, True Detective season 3 is a welcome improvement, A Dog's Way Home is heartfelt if familiar, On the Basis of Sex is inspirational but a bit too safe, and If Beale Street Could Talk is Certified Fresh.

by | January 10, 2019 | Comments

This weekend at the movies, we’ve got an unlikely friendship (The Upside, starring Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart), a canine tale (A Dog’s Way Home, starring Ashley Judd and Edward James Olmos), an early triumph for RBG (On the Basis of Sex, starring Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer), a James Baldwin romance (If Beale Street Could Talk, starring Kiki Layne and Stephan James), and sad Keanu (Replicas, starring Keanu Reeves and Alice Eve). What are the critics saying?

The Upside (2017) 43%

It isn’t uncommon for Hollywood to snatch up a popular film produced in another country and put its own spin on it for English-speaking audiences, and sometimes the process can yield fantastic results (think Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia or Martin Scorsese’s The Departed). That was likely the thought behind The Upside, a remake of the 2011 comedy The Intouchables, which was a wildly successful hit in its native France. Kevin Hart stars as an ex-con who stumbles into a job interview to be the full-time caretaker of a wealthy quadriplegic (Bryan Cranston). He accepts the position, and as the two get to know each other, an unexpected bond begins to form between them. Critics say the film’s talented leads give it everything they’ve got, but they’re unable to escape the by-the-numbers execution and overly sentimental, cliche-ridden script. Fans of Hart and Cranston may find it worth a watch, but you’re likely better off catching the original.

A Dog's Way Home (2019) 59%

We love puppies as much as anyone, but seriously, what’s with all the dog-themed movies lately? Last summer, we saw Dog DaysAlpha, and A.X.L. all open within a span of two weeks, and this week, we get A Dog’s Way Home. To be fair, they haven’t all been bad — Alpha was surprisingly Certified Fresh — and when it comes to entertaining young audiences, the bar is typically set pretty low. That said, A Dog’s Way Home, which follows the adventures of its titular lost canine as it treks 400 miles across Colorado wilderness to return to its owner, isn’t half bad, according to the critics. They say it’s appropriately adorable and heartfelt, even if it’s surprisingly a little dark for its target audience and feels like something we’ve seen before. It should make for a solid night at the movies for the family, as long as you bring enough tissues for everyone.

On the Basis of Sex (2018) 72%

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is enjoying a unique moment in the spotlight right now, and not necessarily for any reason pertaining to one of her famous dissents. After the book about her exploits, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, became a New York Times bestseller in 2015, a documentary titled simply RBG was released last year to widespread acclaim. In addition, we also got a biographical drama called On the Basis of Sex, which follows a young Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) during her years in law school, her professorship at Rutgers, and her earliest efforts to battle gender discrimination through legal means. This week, On the Basis of Sex expands into wide release, and critics say it’s an inspiring portrait of an endlessly fascinating woman during a watershed moment in her career, even if it plays it fairly safe and relies a bit too heavily on familiar storytelling beats. It isn’t particularly deep, but it’s well-acted and probably worth a watch for anyone curious about Ginsburg’s early career.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) 95%

In 2016, director Barry Jenkins took home a slew of awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture (botched announcements aside), for his romantic drama Moonlight. That film was based on a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who also took home an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for his work on the script. Following on the heels of that, Jenkins brings us another romance based on existing material, If Beale Street Could Talk, adapted from the novel by celebrated writer James Baldwin. Newcomer Kiki Layne plays Tish Rivers, a young woman in early 1970s Harlem working to free her wrongly imprisoned fiancé Fonny (Stephan James) before their child is born — the story jumps from the present to flashbacks of their courtship and the events leading to Fonny’s arrest. Another film expanding to wide release this week after a limited opening in late 2018, Beale Street has already racked up all kinds of awards, including a Golden Globe win for supporting actress Regina King, and critics say it’s a powerful, thought-provoking love story buoyed by incredible performances. Look for this one to continue picking up trophies as the awards season continues.

Replicas (2018) 11%

There are those who say Keanu Reeves doesn’t age, that he’s some sort of supernatural being sent to bless us with exceedingly friendly fan interactions, meme-worthy candid photos, and feature films of frequently unpredictable quality for as long as Hollywood will allow. Reeves may or may not be immortal, but his on-screen family in the new film Replicas certainly is not. They perish tragically in a car accident, and this fuels his character’s obsessive quest to grow clones of his wife and three kids in order to re-implant facsimiles of their consciousness and bring them back to life, as it were. It’s a personal take on a frequently explored sci-fi theme, and we’d love to tell you what the reviews are saying about it, but Replicas wasn’t screened for critics. Stay tuned as reviews begin to come in, and if you feel so inclined, guess the Tomatometer!

What’s New on TV

True Detective: Season 3 (2019) 86%

Driven by Mahershala Ali‘s mesmerizing performance, True Detective‘s third season finds fresh perspective by exploring real world events — though it loses some of the series’ intriguing strangeness along the way.

Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • Pledge (2018) , a horror film about three friends who endure a deadly fraternity hazing, is at 88%.
  • Perfectos desconocidos (2018) , about a dinner party game that exposes secrets among a group of friends, is at 83%.
  • Buffalo Boys (2018) , a Western with an Asian twist about a trio of Javanese brothers out for revenge, is at 79%.
  • Touch Me Not (2018) , an experimental drama that explores the nature of intimacy, is at 50%.
  • The Aspern Papers (2018) , a drama about a writer’s obsession with romantic letters purportedly written by a famous poet, is at 9%.

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