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What to Watch This Weekend

Stiller's an obsessive dad in 'Brad's Status' ; Pfeiffer returns in 'Mother!'

 Brad's Status, R
Navel-gazing Sacramento insomniac Brad (Ben Stiller, 51) shares his narcissistic agony via voiceover, categorizing his shortcomings while sweating through a Harvard visit with his caring, unconflicted piano prodigy teen (The Walking Dead's Austin Abrams). Writer-director Mike White (School of Rock) has Brad desperately obsess about his more successful besties from Tufts (not Harvard!): preening TV pundit Michael Sheen, hedge-fund plutocrat Luke Wilson and White’s own character, who hosts Hollywood’s hottest pool parties. Very humorous, but it also smells of desperation, a comedy of declining white male privilege. Male critics have much more patience with this guy.



Also New in Theaters

 American Assassin, R
American Assassin is an expertly dumb film by the exquisitely smart guys who brought you Showtime's Homeland and FX's The Americans. It stars terrific new action hero Dylan O’Brien as a kid who loses his fiancée to an Islamist terrorist attack on a beach and then trains for vengeance as a terrorist killer under CIA mentor Michael Keaton, 66. The dialogue is riddled with clichés and the plot is predictable, but the chase scenes are better than Logan Lucky’s and the pulse-pounding, terrorist-stomping narrative will hold your interest right until the end. FULL REVIEW


Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris in 'Mother!'

Niko Tavernise/Paramount Pictures

Oscar nominees Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris play creepy guests in "Mother!"

 Mother!, R 
Darren Aronofsky’s horror flick stars Jennifer Lawrence as a woman few seem to heed as her house becomes a nightmare world, but the real news is the mysterious couple who invade her home: Ed Harris, 66, who is never less than excellent, and Michelle Pfeiffer, 59, back at the top of the actor pack after five years out of the limelight.

Still in Theaters

Bill Skarsgard in 'It'

Brooke Palmer/Warner Bros.

Behind all this makeup is Bill Skarsgard. He plays Pennywise the clown in "It."

 It, R
Based on one of Stephen King’s most celebrated and scariest works, It is a true fright-fest that will satisfy anyone who loves the horror genre, regardless of age. Starring a septet of brilliant young actors — plus Bill Skarsgard, 27, who's terrifying as Pennywise the Dancing Clown — It doesn't rely on cheap jump cuts for its scares; it frightens and unsettles on a multitude of levels, including suspense, gore and repressed fear. While at some points the movie’s effects get in its own way (certain CGI monsters provoke more confusion than fright) and some of the main characters feel slightly underdeveloped, it's a thrilling entry in the genre and one of the better King adaptations. If clowns give you nightmares, though, be prepared for some sleepless nights.


Reese Witherspoon stars in 'Home Again'

Karen Ballard/Open Road Films

Reese Witherspoon plays a mixed-up mother in "Home Again." She's plagued by the insecurities that come with starting a second career and being newly single.

 Home Again, PG-13
This glossy romantic comedy stars Reese Witherspoon, 41, as Alice Kinney, a mother of two who returns to her childhood home and the arms of Mom (Candice Bergen, 71) after separating from her hubby (Michael Sheen, 48). Alice gets a little crazy at her 40th birthday party and ends up inviting three cute filmmakers to move in. Romance and wackiness ensue. The movie includes some corny and cliche romcom moments (the director Hallie Meyers-Shyer, 30, is the daughter of rom-com queen Nancy Meyers, 67), but it's hard not to like its message: There is life after love. FULL REVIEW

Viceroy's House

Few summer movies boast a better lineup of grownup talents than this handsomely photographed, incompetently written film — an attempt to blend the drama of India and Pakistan's violent 1947 Partition with a Romeo and Juliet-style romance between a Hindu (Manish Dayal, Halt and Catch Fire) and a Muslim (Huma Qureshi). Both are servants to Britain’s last India viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, whose job was to end England's 300-year rule and split India and Pakistan peacefully. Downton Abbey fans will thrill to see Hugh Bonneville, 53, as Mountbatten, timing his staff to see how fast they can dress him. But that’s about the only thrill they’ll get from this film, bland as a carob brownie and quite confusing. The X-Files’ Gillian Anderson, 49, so terrific in period pieces (Bleak House, House of Mirth), has little to do as Mrs. Mountbatten but kvetch about India’s heat and advocate niceness. And Michael Gambon, 76, is intriguing as Lord Ismay, scheming to effect Churchill’s plan to protect British oil interests and block Russia, though that plotline is vague and unresolved.

If you want to find out the real drama of the largest, fastest migration in human history, read Nisid Hajari’s Midnight’s Furies or Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, or see Rushdie’s flawed but intelligent film version of his novel.

Adam Driver stars as Clyde Logan and Channing Tatum as Jimmy Logan in Steven Soderbergh’s 'Logan Lucky'.

Claudette Barius/Fingerprint Releasing/Bleecker Street

Adam Driver, left, plays an angry one-armed Iraq vet bartender, and Channing Tatum stars as his felonious brother in "Logan Lucky."

 Logan Lucky, PG-13
Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky is a fast, character-rich, zigzag romp of an action comedy. Daniel Craig (who turns 50 in March) has a trashy blast playing uneducated-but-ingenious Joe Bang, an improvised-explosives expert set on stealing a $14 million NASCAR trove (a sinkhole has opened under Charlotte’s racetrack). Its plot is familiar, in the same genre as The Hitman’s Bodyguard, but much smarter, better shot and more surprising. FULL REVIEW 

 The Hitman's BodyguardR

The Hitman’s Bodyguard has zero surprises, but plenty of buddy-film cliches. Gary Oldman stars in a role he could play in his sleep (a Belarus dictator whom hitman Samuel L. Jackson must stop by testifying against him in court), and does. Yet it’s a diverting flick despite its witless derivativeness. Even gag lines that have no right to live do so, thanks to the infinite charisma of Jackson and the charm of Ryan Reynolds as his bodyguard and former nemesis. Their chemistry makes you wish their arguments — and the script — were equally clever.

Idris Elba and Tom Tayler in 'The Dark Tower'

Jessica Miglio/Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection

Idris Elba plays Roland in "The Dark Tower" and develops a strong father-son bond with Jake, played by Tom Taylor.

 The Dark TowerPG-13

Don’t despair, fans of Stephen King. The long-awaited $60 million film of his Dark Tower series is a critic's piñata and a commercial flop. But there are signs of hope in it nonetheless. Idris Elba, 44, is worth the price of admission as the Sergio Leone-inspired Gunslinger, who hunts the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey, playing a cheerfully homicidal variation on his car-commercial Zen master). The scenes set on the parallel universe Mid-World look cool and packed with references to other Stephen King stories (It, The Shining, etc.). And there’s hope for a better retelling: a TV show based on the book is in the works, and a 10- to 13-episode show has a far better chance of adequately accommodating King’s complex, world-hopping, 4,200-plus-page story than this somewhat disappointing film.


Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts in 'The Glass Castle'

Jake Giles Netter/Lions Gate

The Walls family embraces poverty in "The Glass Castle."

 The Glass Castle, PG-13

The film and its star Brie Larson do a decent job of capturing the inspiring true story of Jeannette Walls’ rise from a childhood marked by lurid poverty and bizarre parenting to Park Avenue and writerly success (a saga chronicled in her superb mega-bestselling memoir). It could have used less sentimentality, however: Her parents’ stunning selfishness and nomadic madness should have been more heart-chilling, and the ending should have felt more haunted by the aftershock of the film noir horrors that went before. The best part is Woody Harrelson, 56, who plays Walls’ charismatically dazzling, dead-drunk deadbeat dad and makes this astounding tale come alive. FULL REVIEW

 Detroit, R
Director Kathryn Bigelow’s movie about Detroit’s 1967 race riot is mercilessly gripping, told with artfully crafted documentary-style realism. It’s a masterpiece but a lesser one than her six-Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker (2008) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012). Based on an incident in which cops killed innocent black people trapped by the riot in Detroit’s Algiers Motel, the film is hobbled in part by the fact that the victim characters are based on real people (Algee Smith is terrific as a member of the Motown group the Dramatics) and the cops are fictionalized into caricatures. It’s still worth seeing for wonderful acting and the 65-year-old Bigelow’s icy genius. FULL REVIEW

 An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, PG

An Inconvenient Sequel is no An Inconvenient Truth. While, like its predecessor, the documentary begins with the horrors of climate change — Al Gore speaking in front of a slideshow to a rapt audience — it quickly devolves into a ham-handed narrative of Gore as hero. We see him flying from nation to nation to meet with important people in preparation for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. The film’s presentation of him as the savior behind the agreement is at best contrived and at worst quite offensive to the thousands of other attendees from 196 countries who worked to forge the deal. The film only briefly touches upon, but neglects to reckon with, an inconvenient possibility: These efforts might all be undone by the next president of the United States. We’re left with a laughably forced ending: The Earth is getting hotter, but you can make a difference, as long as you attend Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps training and make sure to #BeInconvenient.

 Atomic BlondeR

Atomic Blonde is a wild, sordid, violent ride. It’s also a lot of fun – provided you’re a fan of fight scenes and their resultant blood and bruises, which the titular blonde (a top-of-her-game Charlize Theron) both gives and takes with a tenacious swagger. Set in the 10 days before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the film stars Theron as Lorraine, a British special agent sent to Berlin to retrieve a list — code-named “the list” — of every undercover MI6 operative in the city. Adapted from the graphic novel The Coldest CityAtomic Blonde knows it’s ventured into the ridiculous, awash with neon like a bad 1980s music video and full of more crazy plot twists than you can count. But that’s all part of the fun.

 Landline, R

Watching Landline is like time traveling back to 1995: wine-toned lipstick, “Must-See TV,” Lorena Bobbitt jokes and, of course, landlines — no cell phones. But the period-perfect details take a back seat to the travails of the family at the center of the film: a mouthy teenager; her big sister, whose relationship with her nerdy fiance is listless and lustless; and a Manhattan adman dad (John Turturro) and his wife (Edie Falco), whose marriage is marked by bitter regret. It’s a familiar dysfunctional-family setup, but the dialogue is smart, and it’s worth the price of admission to watch Falco and Turturro, both masters at their craft. FULL REVIEW

 Girls Trip, R

A posse of four college friends (played by Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish) is headed to the Essence Festival in New Orleans for a rekindling of friendship and some serious partying. Yet one more comedy featuring women behaving badly — the F-bombs fly in the first minutes — the comedy is disappointing despite an all-star cast and a standout performance by Haddish. FULL REVIEW

 DunkirkPG-13

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk may be the best World War II epic in years. Based on the May 1940 evacuation of almost 400,000 Allied soldiers trapped by the enemy on France’s Dunkirk beach, the film manages to make the soldiers’ sitting-duck tension palpable without the typical Hollywood heartstring-fiddling. Mark Rylance plays a civilian boat captain with appropriate stiff-upper-lipped resolve, and Cillian Murphy is convincing as the shell-shocked shipwreck survivor he picks up. FULL REVIEW 

 Baby Driver,

Baby Driver delivers one of the best opening scenes in recent memory, throwing the audience into the rush of a car chase and keeping the pedal to the metal until the credits roll. As the titular Baby (yes, that’s his name), Ansel Elgort offers a perfect mix of sensitivity and bravado, while Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx are outrageously entertaining in support roles. Edgar Wright’s direction is masterful, with much of the action synced to the beats of a stellar soundtrack. Even if you’re not usually into movies featuring high-speed car chases and gratuitous violence — and Baby Driver has plenty of both — you’ll want to give this one a shot.

 Spider-Man: HomecomingPG-13

This is the best Spidey movie since 2004’s Spider-Man 2. That’s in part thanks to new star Tom Holland, who — despite having been 20 during filming — makes a far more believable 15-year-old webslinger than his predecessors. This Spidey knows he’s overeager and under-experienced, and respects his elders, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and his nemesis the Vulture (Michael Keaton). Not jaded or cynical, it’s simply a fresh and fun summer film. FULL REVIEW

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