Category Archives: Openings

What happens in Chicago….ends up here every Friday.

Opening in Las Vegas, October 14, 2016


Not much of interest this week, other than an indie by a British director about American aimlessness. That’s American Honey (78), directed by Andrea Arnold (the director of the excellent Fish Tank, also about a teenage girl). Getting rave reviews for the star, Sasha Lane, but loses points for starring Shia LaBeouf and being 2 hours and 43 minutes long. Ty Burr: “Ironically, the film itself is as gentle and unexploitative as they come. Yes, it deserves the rating, and yes, it depicts teenagers doing things the grown-ups would rather not admit they actually do, but it does so with a poetic curiosity and a sense of what it’s like to be young, poor, and rootless — both future-less and free.”

The box-office winner this week is The Accountant (51), a generic-looking thriller that seesm to perfectly use Ben Affleck’s dead-eyed stare. Nick Shager: “Seemingly primed to deliver daffy thrills, The Accountant instead goes about its noble-killer business with all the excitement of an IRS audit.”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Kevin Hart film, and I have seen enough of his stand-up to know I don’t like him, but the kids do. Therefore, we have Kevin Hart: What Now? (61), filmed in front of an audience of 50,000. Yes, 50,000! Tirdad Derakhshani: “Part of the problem lies with the venue. When it comes to standup, bigger is not better. One-man shows work better in smaller spaces. In his bid to proclaim his giant stature as an entertainer, Hart loses himself.”

This week’s bomb is Max Steel (23), which probably didn’t earn back the catering costs this weekend. Something about a kid who discovers he has powers–gee, that’s original. Frank Scheck: “As the stuntmen duke it out and we see close-ups of the two actors making silly faces, it’s hard not imagine a Mystery Science Theater 3000 feature in the making.”

Desierto (51) seems interesting–a Spanish-language look at the border mess, with Gael Garcia Bernal, but getting lukewarm reviews. Todd McCarthy: “If the story is meant to represent a microcosm of the immigration problem, it’s woefully reductive. If it’s meant to be first and foremost an action thriller, it does have a few nice moves to offer.”

Finally there’s Shin Godzilla (68) a Japanese reboot (and why not, they invented the character) that’s getting good notices and should thrill any monster-movie fans. The trailer is awesome. Joe Leydon: “The Original Gangsta Lizard gets a largely satisfying reboot in Shin Godzilla, a surprisingly clever monster mash best described as the “Batman Begins” of Zilla Thrillers.”

Films that opened in USA on Oct 7-9, 2016


Know it’s late but always like to keep a record of the films that opened in the US since this blog started, especially because if we see one of these films we can post a comment in the related thread:

The Girl On The Train (IMDB rating 6.7) – A big hit in America last weekend, and an even bigger hit here in Australia (where it was heavily marketed for weeks). Not really of interest to me and after seeing the trailer, even less so. Interesting to note that in supporting roles are Alison Janney, Laura Prepon & Lisa Kudrow – all who had roles on highly-successful TV series in the late 90s/early 00s era.

The Birth Of A Nation (5.6) – This was such a ‘hot’ film coming out of Sundance that many were talking about it being a major Oscar contender for months. But controversy over events from star/director Nate Parker’s past appear to have ended that speculation, with the lacklustre opening box office not helping. The oddly low IMDB rating suggests something similar to the Ghostbusters remarke; people who haven’t seen it piling on it because of Parker’s past, or perhaps the film’s ideology in his heavily politically charged year in the US.

Middle School: The Worst Years Of My Life (5.8) – Has a low IMDB rating but the trailer for this school comedy actually makes it look pretty fun. Interesting trivia note: this is the first film for director Steve Carr to get a ‘fresh’ RT rating after 8 rottens.

Premam (8.4) – Indian romantic drama

The Greasy Strangler (5.8) – Saw a headline suggesting this offbeat black comedy may be the weirdest movie ever and after seeing a trailer, they may be right! Seems to be worth a look

Asura: The City Of Madness (7.0) – South Korean crime thriller
Under The Shadow (7.5) – Horror film set in 1980s Iran.

The Battle Of Algiers (8.1) – Appears to be a reissue of the great 1960s historical war film. Was lucky enough to see this on the big screen several years ago and highly recommend it – my abiding memory of it is a quieter scene where the Colonel in charge of the occupation (under fire from media over his conduct of the occupation) asks the media whether they support the occupation; when they say they do they’re exposed as not really being oppositional at all.

Being 17 (7.3) – French drama

Newtown (5.5) – Doco on how a town recovers from a mass shooting. The user comments on the IMDB site for this are rather disconcerting.

Blue Jay (7.4) – Romantic drama (filmed in a week) in seemingly mumblecore style written and starring one of the prominent members of that style, Mark Duplass. Also starring Sarah Paulson who was sensational in the great OJ mini-series. Looking at the trailer and it being filmed in B&W, reminded me a bit of the late 00s film In Search of A Midnight Kiss which I reviewed here many years ago

Theo Who Lived (7.2) – Doco on an American journalist captured by Al-Qaeda.

The Hollow (5.3) – US murder investigation thriller.

Homeland (N/A) – War-related film about a citizen of war-torn Syria living in Sweden.

Opening in Las Vegas, September 30, 2016


I start with the latest Tim Burton film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (59), with another spate of mixed reviews. This one seems more Burton-ish than ever, but I’m wondering if this guy has lost the knack of stepping outside of himself. I once read of him, “great art director, not so great director.” Ed Wood still remains his best film, I think. Feel free to suggest yours. Todd McCarthy: “For a time, an appealing gentleness prevails that’s rooted in this unique inter-generational romance, a feeling augmented in particular by Purnell’s slow-blooming flower of a performance, and if the film had remained focused more on the improbabilities of this love story, it might have emerged as something rather special.”

Movies like Deepwater Horizon (67) trouble me. Peter Berg specializes now in making films about catastrophes that focus on small, individual events that make us admire courage and humanity and all that good stuff. If he made a movie about the plague it would be about a plucky doctor who managed to save two or three people. Making a movie about the BP oil spill, one of the most dastardly corporate incidents ever, by focusing on the decent people who worked the oil rig, seems to me to turn a blind eye to what really mattered. But that’s just me. Peter Debruge: “For a movie in which you can’t follow what’s going on for 75% of the time, Deepwater Horizon proves remarkably thrilling.”

Masterminds (49) is a comic heist movie with Zack Galifinakis (in a Bruce Vilanch wig) and a host of SNL actors. It practically screams home video. If you want to see a good movie about an inside job at an armored car robbery, rent Criss Cross of 1949. Sara Stewart: “I cracked up here and there watching this broad heist comedy, but it wasn’t laughter I felt great about. Director Jared Hess (“Napoleon Dynamite”) has always gone for geeks and oddballs, but this film mostly punches down at characters for being poor, unfashionable and stupid.”

Putting my James hat on, I’m kind of surprised Queen of Katwe (73) is opening wide here, after a limited release last weekend. No matter how good, it doesn’t seem likely that a film about a Ugandan girl chess prodigy will pack them in. But it does seem worthwhile. Katie Rife: “In some ways, the more novel element is the film’s depiction of chess, which in Katwe is a popular sport on the level of football. And while that might seem unlikely, it’s accurate, at least in the wake of Mutesi’s success.”

In limited release this week, there’s Kate Winslet in The Dressmaker (47), also starring Judy Davis, set in the Australian outback. A. O. Scott: “Unfortunately, and despite its promising start, The Dressmaker doesn’t move much beyond the level of well-costumed playacting.”


Opening in Las Vegas, September 23, 2016


Thisweek we have another unnecessary remake, The Magnificent Seven (54), which itself was a remake of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Word is that this will be a huge hit, breaking the September record for openings. I guess that’s due to Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt. I will likely pass. Matt Singer: “The group…make a fine crew. But the rest of the movie doesn’t find enough interesting wrinkles on the old formula to merit a reboot.”

The only other major release this week is for the kids, Storks (56). Do kids still think storks deliver babies? I think that was on its way out when I was a kid. But it’s apparently valid enough to make a movie. Interestingly, the stork myth goes back to ancient civilizations, and is present in the Greek, Egyptian, and Norse mythologies. Neil Genzlinger:”This film, directed by Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland, is a harmless enough way to occupy a youngster for an hour and a half. It’s just not especially rich in extraordinary characters or moments.”

A couple of limited releases hit here today. The more fascinating may be Max Rose (37) Jerry Lewis’ first film in twenty years. He’s 90, and many fans of Borscht Belt shtick are still obsessed with him, but he kind of rubs me the wrong way. His best appearance, other than The Nutty Professor, was in Scorsese’s King of Comedy. Glenn Kenny: “As conventional and stiff as Max Rose itself is, Lewis’ performance in it is full of virtues: he’s committed, disciplined, and entirely credible.”

Finally is The Hollars (53), directed by actor John Krasinski about a gasp! dysfuctional family. The only reason to see it may be Margo Martindale, a long-overlooked character actress who is getting early Oscar buzz. Marjorie Baumgarten: “A standard-issue family reunion dramedy, The Hollars has several genuine moments of human interaction that are near-magical to observe because they feel so plucked from real life.”


Opening in Las Vegas, September 16, 2016


A little something for everybody this week. Rom-com, horror, and some Oscar  bait.

The likely winner among new films at the box office is Blair Witch (45), described as a sequel  but perhaps more a remake of th 1999 hit, The Blair Witch Project. That earlier film divided audiences among those who said “nothing happens” and those that realize the directors were actually on to something new in the horror genre, which has since been done to death (the found footage genre). This film is not found footage, and it ignores the horrible Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (which I somehow ended up seeing twice). I have an interest in this, but will probably wait for home media. Matt Singer: “Blair Witch does deliver the requisite shocks demanded of a horror movie for a multiplex audience, but maybe it’s time for filmmakers to stay out of these woods for a while — at least until there’s a new technology for the Blair Witch to mess with.”

As far as Bridget Jones’s Baby (60) goes, I saw the first one but not the second, despite how hard poor Renee Zellweger works to make this character interesting. I suppose some people will be interested to see her new face, or to see the old gag about not knowing who the father is, or see Colin Firth’s career somehow go from an Oscar to this, but I’ll skip it. Conor O’Donell: “In spite of its slightly excessive runtime and a handful of millennial-pandering beats, Bridget Jones’s Baby is brought to term by the buckets of undeniable charm and charisma present in its performances.”

Snowden (58) is Oliver Stone’s take on the whistleblower who is either a hero or a traitor, depending on your political stance. If you’ve seen Citizenfour it may not be necessary to see this, unless you want to know more about Snowden’s girlfriend or to see what tricks Stone has up his sleeve. Stone has had an erratic career, especially this century, but there’s usually something interesting going on. Gregory Ellwood: “As a piece of filmed entertainment Snowden is certainly a watchable endeavor, but Stone and screenwriter Kieran Fitzgerald’s script is often an odd mix of hero worship, conspiratorial thriller and cringe worthy dialogue.”

Complete Unknown (60) is a good name for this film, because it’s not often a movie that I’ve never heard of opens, especially one starring Rachel Weisz and Michael Shannon. I can’t quite figure out what it’s about from the summary, but it looks intriguing and the cast can’t miss. Lanre Bakare: “Unfortunately, with the big reveal having arrived in the first act, the film isn’t much more than an elongated debate that leaves you thinking: so what?”

Opening in Las Vegas, September 9, 2016


This week’s major opening is Sully (76), Clint Eastwood’s take on the “Miracle on the Hudson.” I remember nothing but admiration for Captain Sullenberger, but apparently that isn’t the whole truth. Getting strong reviews; it should be Oscar bait (especially for Tom Hanks) and a popular success. Ty Burr: “Whether you want to accept it or not, Eastwood remains one of the best and most quixotic filmmakers we have, torn between jingoism and doubt, exceptionalism and despair.”

The Disappointments Room (tbd), not screened for critics, looks like a generic haunted house movie, roping Kate Beckinsale in as lead. But these things are the biggest money-makers in the business. The most profitable film this summer? Lights Out.

When the Bough Breaks (tbd), also not screened for critics, is another of a growing number of films for the African America community. This one seems like a mix between The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and Fatal Attraction.

The Wild Life (36) is an animated film that tells the story of Robinson Crusoe from the point of view of the animals around him. Looks pretty bad, but if it gets one kid to actually read Robinson Crusoe it’s worth it. Roger Moore: “The colors are vibrant, the sea, palm trees, birds, bird-feathers and Crusoe’s red hair are almost photo-realistic. But as a kids’ cartoon, Wild Life is a an utter dud.”



Opening in Las Vegas, September 2, 2016


Labor Day has traditionally been the lowest box office weekend of the year, as I believe there has never been a film hitting 20 million. Doesn’t seem like that will change.

There is some Oscar bait with The Light Between Oceans (61), a soap opera about a baby and a lighthouse off the coast of Australia. Stars real-life couple Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander. Has been on the shelf for two years. Lawrence Toppman: “Writer-director Derek Cianfrance knew he was dealing with a story full of coincidences when he adapted M.L. Stedman’s novel The Light Between Oceans, so he avoided melodrama by holding himself and his excellent actors in check. The result is a movie that crackles quietly without flaring up into an emotional blaze.”

The horror movie de jour is Morgan (45), about which seems, from the description, very much like Stranger Things, but certainly not as good. Peter Hartlaub: “The film tries to split the difference between thoughtful science fiction and action-driven horror, and blows the chance to truly succeed at either. Morgan is an enjoyable enough experience in the moment, but it never quite coalesces.”

Strange movie of the week has to be The 9th Life of Louis Drax (38), about a kid who keeps narrowly escaping death. Neil Genzlinger: “It’s not clear whether The 9th Life of Louis Drax is deliberately inconsistent or merely an example of confused filmmaking. One thing is certain, however: It sure leaves an unpleasant aftertaste.”

Finally there’s The Sea of Trees (23), which was pilloried at Cannes and apparently no one likes–there’s only one review over 50 on Metacritic. Gus Van Sant’s career takes a furthr slide into obscurity, and Matthew McConaughey is going to lose all the good will he gained back. Eric Kohn: “Not even Matthew McConaughey can sustain the mushy, amateurish story, which digs itself a deeper hole as it moves along. The established talents of both director and star only serve to magnify the many wrong moves that this stunning misfire takes.”

Movies Opening in New Haven – Weekend of August 26th, 2016


The Mechanic: Resurrection: Sequel to The Mechanic, which made 29m on a 40m budget way, way back in January 2011. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either.  Jason Statham returns alongside Tommy Lee Jones (!) and Jessica Alba.

Rotten Tomatoes:: 25%, Metacritic:43%

Personal interest factor: 1

Don’t Breathe: Director Fede Alvarez, Producer Sam Raimi and actress Jane Levy (who brought us the excellent Evil Dead remake a few years back) re-team for this home invasion picture.

Rotten Tomatoes:: 87%, Metacritic: 71%

Personal interest factor: 7

Southside with You: Fictionalized tale of Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) and Michelle Robinson’s (Tika Sumpter) first date.  I feel like this should have been a mid-Summer release (limited, followed by an expansion) rather than a semi-wide August dumping ground title.

Rotten Tomatoes:: 93%, Metacritic: 75%

Personal interest factor: 7

Hands of Stone: Generic boxing biopic starring Edgar Ramirez as Roberto Duran and Robert DeNiro as his trainer. The Weinsteins are dumping this in a few hundred theaters the last weekend of August so it’s pretty clearly not worth anyone’s time.

Rotten Tomatoes:: 45%, Metacritic: 55%

Personal interest factor: 2

Opening in Las Vegas, August 12, 2015


Some films with good reviews opening this week, including the first picture released this year that can be considered as an Oscar Best Picture candidate.

The box office winner for new films this week is Sausage Party (67), from the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg/Jonah Hill gang. It’s animated film about anthropomorphic foodstuffs. Surprisingly, from what I’ve read, it’s also a theological treatise on the existence of God. Jordan Raup: “Sausage Party is a mixed bag of comedy, but when it finally has the gusto to ratchet things up on a visual level, the surrealistic vulgarity is something to be appreciated, even if you may feel assaulted once the lights come up.”

Pete’s Dragon (72) has to be a disappointing opening for Disney, given the reviews. This is a remake of a film that I can’t remember if I saw or not, but this one is not animated and features Robert Redford. Tom Russo: “[David] Lowery’s update turns out to be one of the summer’s best surprises, a gorgeous, magical reworking that deftly strikes that once-elusive balance between contemporary and quaint.”

Oscar talk has started with Florence Foster Jenkins (71), featuring Meryl Streep as the world’s worst singer (sort of the original William Hung) in a heart-warming story that will certainly earn Streep her 20th Oscar nomination and possibly one for Hugh Grant as her husband. Best Picture prospects will depend on what’s coming up, but it will certainly have to have legs beyond it’s 6.5 million opening. David Edelstein: “It’s a wobbly, uneven, ultimately wonderful film — its unevenness befitting its title character, who we come to love despite her loopy lack of awareness of her own deficiencies.”

Also this week is Indignation (80), the first of two adaptations of a Philip Roth novel this fall. I saw the film yesterday and a review will be up tomorrow. It covers usual Roth territory–a young Jewish man goes to college and is undone by a shiksa. Tim Grierson: “The directorial debut of long-time screenwriter and producer James Schamus exudes a tasteful reserve, but actor Logan Lerman cuts through the seeming gentility in a performance that seethes with his character’s burgeoning arrogance and cynicism.”

Opening in Las Vegas, August 5, 2016


James is indisposed this weekend, so I’m filling in. I’m sure he would have had much more to say about the failure of Suicide Squad, but I’ll have to just do my best.

Suicide Squad (40) did set all sorts of box office records, but it also may set records for second-week drop, as no one seems to like it. We’ve already discussed here why the DC films can’t match the success of Marvel. I think I’ll see this just to see how bad it could possibly be, and besides, I can’t miss a Cara Delevingne film (that’s just to get her category tag). Marjorie Baumgarten: “There’s no one to root for in this movie, and no one whose prospects we care about. Several plot points lack coherence, and inserted flashbacks add to a sense of the film having been fused into shape in the editing room. It seems that Suicide Squad was done in by its own hand.”

Believe it or not, Suicide Squad is not the worst-reviewed film of the week. That honor goes to Nine Lives (11), in which Kevin Spacey is transformed into a cat. Someone, somewhere, signed off on that and greenlighted millions of dollars to just such a proposition. Neil Genzlinger: “Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, and Christopher Walken at least chose to be in Nine Lives. The cast member you really feel bad for is the cat. It was presumably forced into the job by its manager, or agent, or whatever. It’s resume may never recover.” And what’s with Jennifer Garner’s on-screen husbands lately? Kevin Costner, and now Spacey. Who’s next, Kirk Douglas?

For the discriminating viewer there’s Life, Animated (75), about an autistic boy who does not communicate until he discovers classic animated Disney films. It might have been more interesting if it was Ralph Bakshi animation that inspired him, but I imagine that this is a good film for those with special needs children or anyone with a heart. Peter Hartlaub: “It wonderfully explains elements of life with autism, offering a primer for the uninitiated, while profiling a family that was rewarded for its willingness to approach an obstacle with patience and love.”


Opening in Las Vegas, July 29, 2016


It’s been a bad summer for sequels, so we’ll see how Jason Bourne (59) does. Most seem to call it unnecessary. I saw the first three, which had a complete character and story arc, now they’re just piling on. Brian Tallerico: “When it’s over, even viewers more eager to forgive this failed creative reunion will wonder what it is that they just watched, and what purpose it serves other than financial. And why no one figured out a new, engaging way to tell a story that’s already been told.”

Maybe someday they can put together a triple-feature of Very Bad Things, Bad Teacher, and Bad Moms (60). It’s always risky to put “Bad” in your title, as critics can be lazy. It’s from the guys who gave us The Hangover. Jordan Hoffman: “There aren’t too many weird or original moments in Bad Moms…but Lucas and Moore, who wrote the script for The Hangover, know how to clear the stage for talented performers that can spin gold from next to nothing.”

Nerve (58) is a film about an online version of Truth or Dare that seems timely given the Pokemon Go craze, but the dangers are greater than getting hit by a car or falling in an open manhole. Jordan Hoffman: “It’s rare when you can pinpoint the exact moment a movie goes off the rails, but when Nerve downshifts from far-fetched parable into idiotic action, the film at least has the decency to speed itself along to get to the ending.”

I’ll be seeing, later today, Woody Allen’s 47th feature film, Cafe Society (64). After a trio of less-than-stellar offerings, Allen has pleased most with this film, although his days of greatness seem to be far behind him. It should please fans of Hollywood in the ’30s. Todd McCarthy: “Wispy and familiar in its themes and humorous strokes, Café Society benefits from an exceptionally adept cast led by Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and Steve Carell, as well as from a luminous glow that emphasizes both the old Hollywood nostalgia and the story’s basis in dreams and artifice.”

Finally there’s Captain Fantastic (72), the best-reviewed film of the week, featuring Viggo Mortensen as a dad attempting to raise his kids off the grid. Stephanie Zacharek: “So where’s the line between rigid parental standards and possible abuse? Captain Fantastic crab-walks tentatively toward that question, and even though its conclusion feels rushed, the movie still works as a portrait of an unorthodox family that’s well adjusted in its own odd way.”

Opening in Las Vegas, July 22, 2016


I actually started the day in Gettysburg, PA and am now in Herkimer, NY, but this is what’s opening this weekend in Vegas:

The big opening is the latest Star Trek Beyond (70). I’ve liked the new iteration of the series, this one is directed by Justin Lin. Most of the critics have talked about how the film plays it safe, and does not go boldly anywhere. John Hazelton: “The third installment of the re-booted Star Trek franchise gets safely through its voyage, offering a strong returning cast and a familiar, if slightly tweaked mix of effects-heavy space action, cheeky humour and philosophical musing.”

Another movie based on a TV series is Absolutely Fabulous (58). The show has had a sporadic history, but it is surely best known as a 90s relic. I’ve never seen the show, but the trailer looks kind of funny. I’ll never see it, though, for bizarre psychological reasons. Manohla Dargis: “Serviceably, at times awkwardly, directed by Mandie Fletcher, the movie skews softer than the series at its barbed best, partly because the celebrity culture that once provided such rich material has become just another ratings opportunity for the Kardashians.”

Another film series seems doomed, this time it’s Ice Age Collision Course (33). I don’t think I’ve seen one of these films, unless it was on TV when my nephews were young. I’m not about to start now. Marc Savlov: “Collision Course is overstuffed with meandering, unnecessary micro-storylines, far too many new characters, and an obvious lack of focus, none of which should impact the movie’s target demographic, kids under 10.”

What looks like another disposable horror film is Lights Out (57), starring B-list names like Teresa Palmer and Maria Bello. Andrew Barker: “Very obviously a first feature, Lights Out is full of camp (most of it clearly intentional, some perhaps not), and its underlying mythology is confused and often ridiculous. But there’s an invigorating leanness — and a giddy, almost innocent energy — to the filmmaking.”

Opening in Las Vegas, July 15, 2016


The field has pretty much been abandoned for the reboot of Ghostbusters (60), getting decent reviews but the most disliked trailer in the history of YouTube, and a reminder that misogyny still is rampant. I’m fine with an all-female comedy, but wonder at why they had to remake this property, and even give it the exact same title. Not even a Ghosbusters 2016? Bill Goodykoontz: “The new Ghostbusters is a pretty funny movie, a goofy take on the goofy original that has some good laughs and a dopey story.”

The Infliltrator  (66), which opened Wednesday, is about an undercover agent who goes deep into a Mexican drug cartel. Seems like a rental to me. Will Ashton: “The Infiltrator is ultimately a solid, if not exceptional, Scorsese takeoff, one that has just enough spunk and wit to make up for its often-apparent shortcomings.”

Outlaws and Angels (41), from director JT Mollner, is a horror movie set in the Old West. Daniel M. Gold: “The sensibility is more grindhouse gore than spaghetti western, perhaps hoping to mine the same vein as Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight,” but lacking Mr. Tarantino’s lively dialogue and wicked sense of humor.”

Finally, there’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople (80), New Zealand’s highest grossing film ever, with Sam Neill in a sentimental family film. Joe Morgenstern: “Has its share of misfired jokes and pseudo-mythic sequences that semi-fizzle. All in all, though, it’s majestical nonsense that is anything but nonsensical.”

Opening in Las Vegas, July 8, 2016


Another lackluster weekend. This summer is heading toward being the worst in my memory. Is there any film out there that could save this summer? Suicide Squad?

The best-reviewed and likely box office champ this weeekend is The Secret Life of Pets (61), an animated film getting decent reviews, but the animation looks a little crude for a feature film. I’d see it if I had kids, but I don’t, so I’ll pass. A. O. Scott: “The Secret Life of Pets is adequate animated entertainment, amusing while it lasts but not especially memorable except as a catalog of compromises and missed opportunities.”

In the movies for bros department, we have Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, (50) another film wasting the talent of Anna Kendrick. Except for Me and Orson Welles, has Zac Efron ever made a good movie? Todd McCarthy: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates rates medium on the grossness scale (an all-body, pre-marital naked-Indian-guru-administered massage for the bride with a happy ending, anyone?), and pretty high in crude talk. But it’s kind of a dud when it comes to endurance and imaginative moves.”

The one movie I might see if boredom sets in is Our Kind of Traitor (57), an adaptation of a John LeCarre novel, starring Ewan McGregor. In summer I gravitate toward films that provide at least a spark of intelligence. Dan Jolin: “A lesser entry in the LeCarré Cinematic Universe, though Damian Lewis and Stellan Skarsgård rescue it from complete blandness.”

Opening in Las Vegas, July 1, 2016


Another weekend of films getting mediocre reviews. I haven’t seen a movie for three weeks now, and I’m not sure I’m going to this week.

The best reviewed film of the week is Steven Spielberg’s The BFG (66), which does not stand for “Big Fucking Giant,” although I prefer to think it does. Written by the late Melissa Mathison, it seems like a good film for kids, but not for me. Anne Hornaday: “Roald Dahl’s beloved ad­ven­ture tale about a brave little girl who befriends the titular Big Friendly Giant, finds Steven Spielberg in his natural element of childlike enchantment, yet also strangely out of step, his trusted sense of narrative propulsion and pacing occasionally failing him in a saggy, draggy second act.”

When I first heard about The Legend of Tarzan (43), I thought, again? But it has been over thirty years since Greystoke, the best Tarzan film I’ve seen. Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie make an attractive Tarzan and Jane, but there are some questioning whether this character should be put in mothballs. I just may see it if I’m really bored. Steve Persall: “Filmmakers simply can’t make Tarzan like they used to. If someone tries, like director David Yates did with The Legend of Tarzan, he’s just another superhero, swinging on vines rather than spider webs. Natives can’t be restless. Lions won’t be wrestled…Tarzan fans leave feeling Cheetah’d.”

I saw the first Purge, not the second, so it’s doubtbul I see The Purge: Election Year (56). I’m tired of super-violent films that tell us that violence is wrong, when they are reaching out to people who wear red “Make America Great” baseball caps. Bilge Ebiri: “If The Purge: Election Year is ultimately still engaging, it’s largely because of the irresistibility of the basic concept itself. But this new movie also makes a pretty good case for why the series should end here: Things have not only come to their logical conclusion, but you get the curious sense that the filmmakers have run out of ideas.”

In a year of strange concepts for films (see The Lobster) comes Swiss Army Man (61), which combines Cast Away with Weekend at Bernie’s. It seems interesting, but I’m not sure I want to spend a couple of hours watching someone lugging around a flatulent corpse. Jordan Hoffman: “It’s coarse and it’s stupid, but it is, thanks mostly the two good performances and some stylish use of music and editing, a little bit moving.”