The old clock on the wall tells us it’s Friday. I guess it’s more of a calendar than a clock. Whatever it is, it says it’s Friday, so this must be the Friday Movie Pile. Put on your movie pants (not included) and figure out what you’re going to see this weekend!
A Wrinkle in Time (PG, 1:50)
Plot: A teenage girl, her genius little brother, and her friend travel through space and time to rescue the kids’ scientist father from an evil planet, a mission which obviously requires the assistance of Oprah Winfrey.
Director: Ava DuVernay (Selma)
Stars: The kids are played by kids you don’t know. The adult stars include Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling as the fabulously dressed Space Ladies, Chris Pine as Beardy Science Dad, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Mom Who’s Mostly Not In It.
Buzz: Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel is one of the most beloved young adult books ever published not to have already been turned into a theatrical film, so the stakes are high. DuVernay is the first woman of color ever to direct a movie with a budget of more than $100 million (and only the second woman total, after Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman), so the stakes are even higher. Because you just know if it flops Hollywood will be like, “Well, we tried to let a girl do it and it didn’t work,” and then give some mediocre white dude his eighth or ninth second chance. Anyway, the reviews so far are middling: 44% positive at Rotten Tomatoes (average score: 5.3/10), 52/100 at Metacritic.
Gringo (R, 1:50)
Plot: Ordinary businessman (David Oyelowo) goes to Mexico to oversee production of a marijuana pill for his bosses (Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton), but gets kidnapped by a drug cartel and has to be rescued. By Sharlto Copley, of all people.
Stars: David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, Thandie Newton, Sharlto Copley
Buzz: Not great, though at least they didn’t hide it from critics (see below). So far 32% of reviews are positive at Rotten Tomatoes (average score: 4.7/10), and Metacritic has it at 44/100. Then again, how well do stoner action comedies usually do? (Pineapple Express is 68% at RT. That’s how well.)
The Strangers: Prey at Night (R, 1:25)
Director: Johannes Roberts (47 Metres Down), who did not direct the first one.
Stars: Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, masks
Buzz: The reviews so far (they only screened it for critics in a few markets) are lukewarm. Rotten Tomatoes shows 33% of them as being positive, with an average score of 5.3/10. (Note that Gringo is 32% but has an average of 4.3.) Metacritic has it at 48/100, with a few very positive reviews, several in the middle, and a few bad ones (though nobody hated it so far).
The Hurricane Heist (PG-13, 1:40)
Director: Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious — the first one, before anyone was paying attention)
Stars: Toby Kebbell, Maggie Grace, Ryan Kwanten, weather
Buzz: This wasn’t screened for critics at all (except, somehow, for a guy at The Hollywood Reporter, who didn’t care for it). This reluctance to show the film was probably over concerns that it would be too cerebral for critics.
Thoroughbreds (R, 1:32)
Plot: In a dark comedy, two girls (Anya-Taylor Joy and Olivia Cooke) conspire to get rid of one girl’s stepfather, with the assistance of a drug dealer played by Anton Yelchin (who died a few days after shooting wrapped).
Director: Cory Finley, a first-timer
Stars: Anya-Taylor Joy, Olivia Cooke, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks
Buzz: This played at Sundance and Fantastic Fest in 2017 under the singular title Thoroughbred. It is unclear whether additional thoroughbreds were edited into the film to necessitate the name change. Anyway, reviews are good: 85% at Rotten Tomatoes (7.1/10 average), 76/100 at Metacritic. The sacred name of Heathers has been invoked more than once.
The Death of Stalin (R, 1:46)
Director: Armando Iannucci (In the Loop; also creator of TV’s The Thick of It and Veep)
Stars: Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jason Isaacs, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Palin
Buzz: Speaking of dark humor, the paranoia and plotting that go on here — barely exaggerated from history — are legendary. Many people (myself included) have been raving about this since it played at Toronto, Fantastic Fest, and Sundance. It’s 97% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes (average score: 8.2/10), 88/100 at Metacritic.
The Leisure Seeker (R, 1:52)
Director: Paolo Virzí, an Italian gentleman making his English-language debut.
Stars: Helen Mirren, Donald Sutherland, and (I have to believe) at least one Viagra joke.