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Movie Review Roundup: What You Should See This Weekend

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    Photo: Courtesy of A24.

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    Few things bring cinephiles joy quite like spending the weekend holed up in a movie theater, devouring the latest big-screen debuts. But how does one choose what to see? Well, that's where we come in.



    Obviously, there will be certain movies throughout the year that feel like must-sees just because everyone is talking about them (Swiss Army Man is about an actual farting corpse; The BFG is Steven Spielberg's return to making delightfully magical kids movies). But if you want to be a more discerning moviegoer, you can visit this cheat sheet. Here we'll give you the lowdown on new releases — and the critics' verdicts on them. Then you'll be able to determine which one is right for you.

    This post will be continually updated, so don't forget to check back!


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    War Dogs
    Starring: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Pollack
    Rated: R
    Tomatometer: 59%
    Synopsis: Bros sell guns to war lords, basically.

    What’s the Word: Measure your expectations: This is an installment into the bro canon, but a seemingly fun one. “People are overthinking War Dogs — essentially it's the second best movie in the Hangover franchise,” tweeted Toronto-based critic Jason Gorber. At NPR, Mark Jenkins commented that sticking closer to the true story would have been better, “but they manage to slip a fair amount of interesting commentary between the blunders, bong hits and wartime near-misses.” The movie tries to mimic the style and skill of an iconic talent, and the strain shows: “Everything in this film, from the voiceover narration, to the familiar rock 'n' roll and Sinatra musical cues, to the freeze frames, to the tale of reckless and ambitious young men behaving badly, seems lifted directly from the Scorsese playbook,” wrote Max Weiss for The Baltimore Sun.

    Released August 19

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    Morris From America
    Starring: Craig Robinson, Markees Christmas, Carla Juri
    Rated: R
    Tomatometer: 92%
    Synopsis: When a Black father and son move to Germany, the son adapts to life abroad, with white German friends who expect him to have a stereotypical Black identity.

    What’s the Word: “In the end, this is Morris’ story,” wrote Tomris Laffly for Film Journal International. “And he is perhaps the most disarmingly lovable young teen to come of age in American independent cinema (which has no shortage of such fare) in recent years.” At The Ringer, K. Austin Collins wasn’t really feeling it, but was into one aspect of Morris’ character, that the kid raps about a lifestyle of drugs and jail time that he really knows nothing about. “But the fantasy [Morris’ lyrics] lay bare is valuable,” Collins wrote. “They’re the movie’s greatest insight into who Morris thinks he is, who he wants to be, and what’s at stake for him in hip-hop. For a middle-class expat going through puberty, it’s a fantasy of manhood that feels and sounds distinctly African American.” More than a coming-of-age story, it’s a touching look at the relationship between Black fathers and Black sons, suggested The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane: “The highlight is not Morris’s worst scrape, when he gets stranded out of town without cash or a phone, but the speech that [his dad] gives after he comes to the rescue. Robinson delivers it in long takes and with tremendous style. ‘We’re the only two brothers in Heidelberg,’ he says. ‘We gotta stick together.’”

    Released August 19

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    Ben-Hur
    Starring: Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Morgan Freeman, Nazanin Boniadi
    Rated: PG-13
    Tomatometer: 30%
    Synopsis: It’s the same plot as the old version, only worse.

    What’s the Word: Nah. Ben-Hur has been adapted before, and this new version isn’t an improvement, wrote Philadelphia Inquirer Tirdad Derakhshani: “Dominated by CGI effects, it's a soap opera better fit for basic cable.” The lack of real plot points and star turned Ben-Hur into a dollar store version of the bigger, gutsier movies of its kind. “It needed a star like the Russell Crowe of Gladiator to provide dramatic heft. What is Ben-Hur without a platform of moral grandeur? Not much,” wrote Stephen Holden for the New York Times. At Christianity Today, critic Alissa Wilkinson had a particularly moving take: It’s not a good movie, but it tells a meaningful story. “Give me [this] Ben-Hur — with its pulsating battles and chariot races, its proclamation that mercy and sacrifice are more revolutionary than anything you can cook up with swords or chariots — over any of this summer's exhausting superhero movies,” she wrote.

    Released August 19

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    Spa Night
    Starring: Joe Seo
    Rated: NR
    Tomatometer: 91%
    Synopsis: A shy 18-year-old explores his sexuality in the spas and karaoke bars in Los Angeles’ Koreatown.

    What’s the Word: It’s a delicate and difficult movie about the tug of war between parental expectations and self-love. “[The film's directors] approach moments of sensuality subtly, as the camera languidly wades into the steamy saunas and the monochromatic showers where David’s interest in the unknown begins to percolate. He’s simultaneously frightened and enlivened by the possibilities of touching a man,” wrote Sam Fragoso for The Wrap. For writer Noel Murray at the A.V. Club, it’s a little too indirect. He said, “Spa Night does a fine job of articulating the existential ennui of someone who loves his parents but knows he can never be what they were expecting.” At The Guardian, Nigel M. Smith felt that the the movie belonged more to the protagonist’s parents than his own inner crisis. “[Andrew] Ahn is more successful at relaying the emotional complexity of David’s parents’ plight as Korean immigrants fighting for a better life for their son. It’s their story that resonates in the end.”

    Released August 19

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