What should I see this weekend?, 9/18-9/20

ScreenerBlog

Generic Young Adult Dystopia #287, action hero Emily Blunt, chess whiz Tobey Maguire, killer mountains and Bahhhston Johnny Depp all take center stage at the box office this weekend. As always, you can count on our slate of reviewers to tell you what's worth your time.

(SR)=Specialty Release

The Good

Everest: "Meticulous account of a doomed 1996 expedition to the peak of Mount Everest impresses with its arduous location shooting and moments of high tension."

Pawn Sacrifice: “Smart real-life drama about the rise of Brooklyn-raised chess legend Bobby Fischer, encompassing his youth as a prodigy through his headline-grabbing match with Russia’s Boris Spassky. A perfect fit for more serious audiences, thanks to solid work on both sides of the camera.”

Sicario: “Acclaimed Québecois filmmaker Denis Villeneuve delivers an appropriately loud, jumpy, energy-driven take on this country’s seemingly hopeless struggle to end Mexico’s drug war.”

The Man Who Saved the World (SR): “The Man Who Saved the World is first and foremost an idiosyncratic portrait of a man whose life went to hell after he did the planet a major favor […] only to find himself lauded decades later. But it's also a primer on late Cold-War jitters, the price of high-stakes saber-rattling on a global scale and the horrifying power of nuclear weapons.”

Prophet’s Prey (SR): “Surely destined to be dramatized for a feature soon, this exhaustive account of corruption within a sinister cult is gripping all the way through.”

East Side Sushi (SR): “Writer-director Anthony Lucero’s food-centered family dramedy serves up plenty of gentle humor to assuage the struggles of an aspiring sushi chef with a mismatched skill set. Endearing performances, accomplished low-budget filmmaking and a distinctive urban setting all add up to an appetizing offering.”

Songs from the North (SR): “Adopting a tricky perspective that's at once first-person and detached, the South Korean-born director assembles a collage of interviews, TV and film extracts, plus her own semi-undercover reportage shot north of the 38th parallel. The result is a sometimes ungainly but ultimately effective primer on the culture, atmosphere and recent history of the planet's most secretive nation.”

The Fool (SR): “Extremely bleak and depressing even by Russian standards, the third film of writer-director Yury Bykov, The Fool, is also his best. An explosive combination of highly personal moral drama and a wider, scathing portrait of a country in which corruption and greed seem to be the only shared values left, this well-oiled narrative machine is further aided by a clever ticking-clock mechanism that actually ratchets up the tension the longer the characters’ vodka-soaked, blame-game speeches are allowed to go on.”

A Trick of the Light (SR): “An ode to cinema’s birth that aims to both set the historical record straight and pay loving tribute to the magical medium itself, Wim Wenders’ A Trick of the Light gets its long-awaited U.S. theatrical premiere this week as part of New York City’s IFC Center retrospective of the great German director.”

Gold of Naples (SR): “Filmed in 1954, Gold of Naples (L'oro di Napoli) opened in the United States in 1957 missing two segments and nearly a half-hour of footage. Restored by the Istituto Luce Cinecittà, this Rialto Pictures release shows why Vittorio De Sica was one of the most beloved and influential of Italian filmmakers.”

Peace Officer (SR): “A former sheriff who created the SWAT team that eventually contributed to the death of a family member uncovers evidence of incompetence or cover-up in this well-balanced and engrossing look at the increasing militarization of police.”

Some Kind of Hate (SR): “Karma is a bitch in this slasher movie with an anti-bullying message that's set in an isolated, orange-is-the-new-summer-camp facility for troubled teenagers […] Some Kind of Hate deserves credit for yoking the slasher-movie formula to an always timely message that's particularly relevant to the age group that dominates horror movie regulars.”

The Blah

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials: “When the kids aren't sprinting, the movie turns into a hodgepodge of Young Adult sci-fi tropes, with bits and pieces of Terminator and the like tossed in. If it feels like you've seen The Scorch Trials before, you probably have, notably in various episodes of Resident Evil. The filmmakers of course copy as much as they can from The Hunger Games, Divergent, even Ender's Game.”

Black Mass: “Mainstream viewers will find a competent but familiar crime drama with a high creepiness quotient […] Individual scenes build to satisfying jolts, but the movie as a whole feels both derivative and disjointed.”

Uncle John (SR): “Uncle John is ultimately a problematic movie. There's so much good here, but it’s buried beneath fat, with actors that for the most part were well-chosen even in small roles[...] This may be the only time I've wanted to see a director's cut where there's less material.”

Being Canadian (SR): “Mostly, though, I was confused as to why Cohen felt this movie needed to be made and who exactly he was making it for. Here’s a thought: instead of a film, he should launch a Being Canadian podcast. That would preserve the film’s best attributes—listening to funny people telling funny stories about Canada—without having to invent a reason to justify its existence.”

The Cut (SR): “Encompassing the Armenian genocide, World War I and their aftermaths, the movie stretches from the Middle East to the United States. Ambitious and at times moving, The Cut doesn't quite overcome its narrative problems.”

The Ugly

Hellions (SR): “Pint-sized boogeymen spoil Halloween in a big way in Hellions, a hard-sell horror flick about the unthinkability of teen pregnancy. Bruce McDonald's latest is a genre-freak-only affair that even at 81 minutes feels like a joke that takes much too long reaching its punch line.”

Olvidados (Forgotten) (SR): “But politically, Olvidados is irresponsible and feels like the work of people who are either too young or too politically disengaged to be able to see the atrocities inflicted upon many Latin Americans four decades ago as much more than source material for a Hollywood-style blockbuster. At the very least, and despite the complexities of the period having been smoothed over and simplified, it's ideologically confused, if endlessly fascinating in ways it never intended.”

Eden (SR): “A bunch of lousy actors get stranded on a deserted island and enact a third-rateLord of the Flies-style drama in Eden, a tale of survival that makes you wish everyone involved would quickly run out of food and water.”

Cooties (SR): “Like so many ideas that probably started as short sketches before unwisely being expanded to feature-length films, Cooties struggles to fill 90 minutes with a premise that could support, at most, five minutes of great content.”

The New Girlfriend (SR): “[An] essentially silly and trite treatise on gender fluidity. There’s barely one believable moment in what amounts to nothing more than a ditsy, annoyingly precocious romp that plays out like one of Almodóvar’s lesser efforts […] Ozon’s frequent use of sexually suggestive dream sequences and other desperate measures to pad out an essentially thin concept is an irritating tease, and none of this is redeemed by the performances of the rather wan cast.”