It’s been a desultory fall at the movies, no doubt about it.
“Doctor Strange” was a welcome critical darling and box office hit. But for the most part, we’ve been treated to “awards season” misfires and science fiction too smart for the country that just elected a proven charlatan president.
So. This weekend is a bit of a relief. Not that the latest J.K. Rowling escape into wizard world is all that. When I filed my review, it was sitting at 95% on the fanboy-biased Tomatomater of Rotten tomatoes. Now, it’s a much less over-rated 75% positive reviews there as saner heads have weighed in. Meh, I say to David Yates and his showcase “Rowling’s Not That Fanciful Beasties of 2016.”
Not much style, not a lot of wit, perfunctory performances. No heart. But for those who love to immerse themselves in Rowlingland, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is 2:16 more than you were ever going to get out of another Potter Picture. So give thanks.
“The Edge of Seventeen” is an R-rated riff on “Sixteen Candles.” Thirty years after that iconic teen film and kids have turned more coarse, but there’s a winning Hailee Steinfeld performance at its heart — great supporting players, especially the adults. And if John Hughes High sports nary a black or brown face in its halls, well that’s the way Hollywood sees America.
Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals” had some award season hype, and I could certainly see Michael Shannon pulling a supporting actor nomination for devouring this austere, airless and stylish thriller wrapped in a domestic melodrama. Reviews have been closer to average, overall.
“Bleed for This” has dazzling sound design, for a boxing picture. And Aaron Eckhart has the J.K. Simmons role as the trainer trying to get “The Paz-manian Devil” (Miles Teller) in shape for his title shot, and his comeback from a backbreaking car accident. True story, boxing picture, the supporting players are mostly shortchanged, but a pretty good movie — most critics agree.
Other pictures opening this weekend which I got around to, a half-decent B-movie heist thriller with Idris Elba (who SINGS the title song) called “The Take” manages a few terrific scenes and “Magnus” is a middling doc about the still-reigning world chess champ (currently defending his title in NYC).
And “The 24 Hour War” is a racing doc co-directed by comic and car guy Adam Carolla about the Ford vs. Ferrari endurance race wars of the 1960s. Not bad, kind of a 70 minute Ford GT commercial, but not bad.