Review of reviews: Film
Directed by Ridley Scott (R)
Colonists find trouble lurking in deep space.
Director Ridley Scott is “back in the chest-bursting game,” said Kevin Sullivan in Entertainment Weekly. Fans of the original Alien who yawned their way through Prometheus, Scott’s ruminative 2012 prequel, will be pleased that this followup “knows the crowd showed up to hear the hits.” The setup will be familiar to anyone who’s seen the franchise’s 1979 original: Space colonists are en route to a distant world when an explosion halts their voyage and a mysterious transmission lures them to a nearby planet. The ensuing suspense, frights, and gross-out violence re-create what it was like to watch the first Alien, and Michael Fassbender proves so adept playing two different androids that “you almost feel spoiled” getting to watch him work. The scares here are “some of the best the entire series has to offer,” said Bryan Bishop in TheVerge.com. Unfortunately, the movie feels “stuck between modes,” mixing gory horror with the same pseudointellectual ideas—about artificial intelligence and the origins of humanity—that sank Prometheus. It’s “a film at war with itself” for sure, said Bilge Ebiri in The Village Voice. That said, “the whipsawing between cerebral musings and visceral thrills generates its own wild energy.”
Directed by Jonathan Levine (R)
A mother and daughter endure a vacation in hell.
The new Amy Schumer comedy is “ultimately as complacent, self-absorbed, and clueless as its heroine,” said A.O. Scott in The New York Times. Playing a brash, boozy singleton like the one she created for Trainwreck, Schumer at least comes across as a woman “so dogged in her pursuit of shallow pleasures that she’s kind of fun to be around.” But when the character’s boyfriend dumps her on the eve of a vacation trip to Ecuador and she ropes her uptight mother into tagging along instead, the results are calamitous. By “calamitous,” I don’t mean wild fun; “I mean lazy, sloppy, and witless.” Snatchedeven wastes Goldie Hawn’s first movie appearance in 15 years, said Justin Chang in the Los Angeles Times. Hawn is forced to play spoilsport instead of silly, and when mother and daughter fall into the hands of a crime boss, the movie gets worse. During the escape, two cartel henchmen die “and so does the laughter,” and corpses “start to pile up faster than fat jokes.” Despite the screenplay’s many flaws, Schumer and Hawn “get a decent odd-couple chemistry going,” said Jon Frosch in The Hollywood Reporter. “To put it bluntly: They’re worth watching even in junk like this.”
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Directed by Guy Ritchie (PG-13)
King Arthur gets the superhero treatment
This isn’t your grandfather’s King Arthur, said Colin Covert in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Tales of Camelot chivalry have no place in this “relentlessly incoherent” action-fantasy thriller from the director who turned Sherlock Holmes into a credible action hero. Created to be the first in a reported six-movie franchise, Legend of the Sword does away with the Arthurian canon in favor of “noisy and frantic” CGI combat between forgettable characters and gigantic mutant beasts. Arthur, portrayed by Charlie Hunnam, is here a hardscrabble street fighter raised in a brothel and trained by a kung fu expert. When the once and future king finally accepts his noble origin, he leads an uprising against Vortigern, his evil uncle. But the path to that moment is a morass of flashbacks and side stories—“all more wearying than fun,” said Stephanie Zacharek in Time. Though Jude Law is terrific as the power-drunk villain, “his chronically arched eyebrow is the movie’s only real magic.” Unless, that is, you count the giant serpents, the elephants that swing wrecking balls from their tails, and the guitar solo that plays when Arthur pulls Excalibur from the stone, said Katy Waldman in Slate.com. “It is almost entirely brainless,” but if you can accept that, “it is totally enjoyable.”