What should I see this weekend?, 10/21-10/23

ScreenerBlog

Ouija: Origin of Evil and Moonlight offer some quality entertainment this weekend, but as for the rest of the high-profile new releases, our reviewers recommend staying far, far away.

(SR)=Specialty Release

The Good

Ouija: Origin of Evil: “Assured and understated even when going through its familiar teen-horror motions, it’s the rare big-studio scary movie that doesn’t seem to have been made by a committee—and should ultimately enjoy a long afterlife as a slumber-party staple.”

Moonlight (SR): “Floridly shot, richly humanistic drama about a young man coming of age in a rough Miami slum tangles with love, violence, identity, addiction and sexuality while somehow never overheating.”

A Stray (SR): “This simple but meandering story may sound trite and unoriginal, but in the hands of writer/director Musa Syeed and his excellent cast of Somali actors (most of whom live in Minneapolis), A Stray evolves into a truly empathetic look at the immigrant experience in today’s jittery American ‘homeland.’”

We Are X (SR): “A startlingly intimate portrait of enigmatic X Japan drummer Yoshiki that goes far beyond the typical rock doc.”

Fire at Sea (SR): “Conveying the immensity of the ongoing migrant crisis, which is costing thousands of lives each year as it puts European unity and values sorely to the test, has proven far too great a task for news reporting. Where journalism leaves off, Fire at Sea begins. It takes a unique documentary filmmaker like Gianfranco Rosi to capture the drama through the periscope of his camera focused on the small Sicilian island of Lampedusa.”

Before the Flood (SR): “A well-intentioned eco-doc whose star is its main selling point.”

In a Valley of Violence (SR): “Ethan Hawke is a weary gunslinger pitted against John Travolta’s maniacal marshal in this reverential and off-kilter western throwback.”

The Blah

The Handmaiden (SR): “Your enjoyment of this elaborate and highly atmospheric psychological thriller will largely depend on your choosing not to get too caught up in (or confused by) a diffuse Energizer bunny of a plot.”

Michael Moore in Trumpland (SR): “A powerful, if not particularly cinematic, case for voting for Hillary.”

Good Kids (SR): “Nothing very original here, but it’s well played and shot, capturing one summer’s hectic span for four kids about to enter college.”

Creepy (SR): “While it has its moments (plastic wrap features prominently), the sum is less than the total of its many parts. The twists and turns keep coming and the performances are quietly compelling, but the film's leisurely pacing drains a certain urgency out of the story's second act… There's an audience for Creepy, but it's a niche one weighted towards genre aficionados familiar with the tropes and nuances of Japanese horror.

The Whole Truth (SR): “A thin and not fully believable courtroom procedural that nonetheless holds your interest.”

The Ugly

Keeping Up with the Joneses: “In this laugh-free turkey, one couple’s humdrum suburban life gets a turbocharge when an exciting new couple moves into their cul-de-sac; can you guess which couples Jon Hamm and Zach Galifianakis are in?”

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back: “A curiously dispiriting movie that gets the job done in a cheerless, uninvolving manner. Child, who writes some of the most efficient and exciting thrillers on the market, deserves better. So do his fans.”

Boo! A Madea Halloween: “At this point, reviewing a Madea film is like a food critic reviewing the fare at McDonald's. By any objective standard, it's subpar, made of cheap ingredients and panders to the undiscriminating. But millions of people seem to love it, and happily come back for more.”

Zombies (SR): “Ten years ago, Zombies might have looked like a stark little gem, slyly informed by the clear-eyed folkloric wisdom that it's not the dead you need to worry about—it's the living who want watching. But in 2016 that's old news, and the cruel little O. Henry twist writer-director Hamid Torabpour tacks onto the film's end constitutes neither a stunningly bleak payoff nor a moral bitch slap.”

American Pastoral (SR): “A two-dimensional reworking of Philip Roth’s novel that reduces a complex story to a Lifetime movie about a seriously troubled young woman who has become a terrorist-fugitive in the late ’60s and the tormented father trying to bring her home.”

Autumn Lights (SR): “A dreary Icelandic-American indie about dull people mired in monotonous relationship trouble.”

It Had to Be You (SR): “This silly romantic comedy may find an audience among the 30-something crowd but will make little sense to anybody else.”

31 (SR): “A ho-hum cats-and-mice game with all the narrative logic of a haunted house, Rob Zombie's 31 may exist solely as an excuse to put weapons in the hands of actors wearing clown makeup.”

Jaqueline (Argentine) (SR): “More complicated than complex… [An] occasionally clever but more often exhausting trifle of a movie.”