What should I see this weekend?, 11/18-11/19

ScreenerBlog

Witches and boxing and, uh, dead siblings: Oh my! Welcome to your weekly review roundup.

(SR)=Specialty Release

The Good

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: “The magic is back—even if Harry Potter isn’t—in this fanciful fantasy, which kicks off a whole new franchise from J.K. Rowling.”

Manchester by the Sea (SR): “Unhappily divorced brother becomes guardian of his orphaned nephew in Kenneth Lonergan's quiet, intense melodrama.”

Bleed for This (SR): “With Whiplash intensity, Miles Teller hammers out a granite-tough portrayal of boxer Vinny Pazienza, who refused to throw in the towel despite a broken neck.”

Esteros (SR): “Childhood best friends reconnect in this sweet, sun-drenched LGBT romance.”

The Red Turtle (SR): “A simplistic if beautifully rendered tale of island abandon.”

Uncle Howard (SR): “A tribute made all the more affecting by its quiet, contemplative approach.”

Ne me quitte pas (SR): “Wryly sobering Belgian/Dutch chronicle of alcoholism agrees with Billy Joel: Sharing a drink called loneliness is better than drinking alone.”

Notes on Blindness (SR): “This daring re-enactment of one man's going blind is not only successful, but deeply moving and enlightening.”

The Edge of Seventeen (SR): “When it comes down to it, Kelly Fremon Craig’s distinctive voice does a lot to make The Edge of Seventeen stand out as a film on par with John Hughes’ work in the 1980s, while also making it something that could be accepted as a Clueless or a Fast Times at Ridgemont High for the current generation.”

The Blah

Nocturnal Animals: “Stylish thriller Nocturnal Animals offers arresting visuals, voguish couture and au courant narrative feints… [But it] doesn’t quite succeed, never pushes past the entertaining but obvious satire, social commentary and usual violence.”

Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened (SR): “A reflective documentary, Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened may disappoint serious musical-theatre connoisseurs looking for new information or analysis concerning its subject, the 1981 Broadway musical flop Merrily We Roll Along, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and direction by Hal Prince.”

A Street Cat Named Bob (SR): “British street musician James Bowen’s autobiographical book, a less-fluffy-than-it-sounds tale about how a stray orange tomcat saved his life, is translated into companion-animal drama A Street Cat Named Bob, a film that admirably tries to remain true to the slightly gritty spirit of its source material. Unfortunately, it also occasionally sprays the wall with maudlin touches and misjudged additions to the story.”

Ali & Nino (SR): “This attempt to spotlight a significant historical event unknown to most Westerners could not seem more out of step with modern tastes, nor do the central characters and actors light the necessary fire. But the film could do well in former Eastern bloc countries, where its anti-Russian content would be well received.”

Hunter Gatherer (SR): “Writer-director Josh Locy makes a noteworthy feature debut with this big-hearted but flawed indie dramedy that provides a prime showcase for talented character actor Andre Royo.”

The Ugly

The Take (SR): “[U]nimaginative, retrograde pulp fit for the bargain bin.”

Life on the Line (SR): “Aiming to shine a light on overlooked heroes of the modern age, Life on the Line instead cobbles together a crude action-melodrama.”