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Movie Review Roundup: What You Should See This Weekend

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    Photo: Courtesy of Killer Films.

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    Few things bring cinephiles joy quite like spending the weekend holed up in a movie theater, devouring the latest silver screen debuts. Though the biggest question is always, how exactly 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 — can a film named White Girl actually give a compelling look at race and privilege in America? However, 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 each week!

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    Goat
    Starring: Nick Jonas, James Franco, Ben Schnetzer, Gus Halper
    Rated: R
    Tomatometer: 75%
    Synopsis: After a harrowing assault, a college guy is hazed during fraternity pledging. Drunkenness reveals the frat’s toxic masculinity.

    What’s The Word: It’s good — chillingly so. “This isn't an easy film to watch,” wrote Stephanie Merry for The Washington Post. “But it's even harder to forget.” Schnetzer is especially great, suggested Katie Walsh in the Tribune News Service: “Goat wouldn't be as strong as it is without the strength of Schnetzer's lead performance, which provides the emotional anchor around which the rest of the film orbits.” It’s compelling, wrote Jordan Raup for The Film Stage, but “its themes are a bit muddled, and certainly not unique.”

    Released September 23

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    The Lovers and the Despot
    Starring: Shin Sang-ok, Choi Eun-hee
    Rated: NR
    Tomatometer: 75%
    Synopsis: A documentary following a stranger-than-fiction true story: A Korean actress fell in love with a famous director, and was kidnapped by Kim Jong-il. The director was later kidnapped as well, but the couple was reunited by Kim, a movie buff, and forced to be his “personal filmmakers.”

    What’s The Word: First of all, can you imagine? Filmmakers Ross Adam and Robert Cannan give this wacky (and, at times, heartbreaking) tale a deep resonance. “Juxtaposing archival footage with a tension-building collection of interviews, Cannan and Adam approach the outlandish crime as a puzzlement, all but wondering aloud how two celebrities could be turned into a dictator's puppets,” wrote Dave White for The Wrap. At the Village Voice, Alan Scherstuhl wrote that the film makes the most of the talking-head style: “Cannan and Adam's interviewees — Choi, intelligence agents, film critics — tell the story with more suspense than talking heads usually muster. The film is brisk and fascinating, ultimately moving, but also less rich than it might have been.” Writing for The Film State, Dan Schindel called the story compelling, but said the movie can feel skin-deep: “The most frustrating aspect of The Lovers and the Despot is its refusal to do more than simply recite its tale, ignoring the interesting concepts lurking within it,” Schindel wrote.

    Released September 23

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    The Dressmaker
    Starring: Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth
    Rated: R
    Tomatometer: 53%
    Synopsis: A dressmaker working in Paris returns to the Australian backwoods where she grew up, and causes a ruckus.

    What’s The Word: Is it avant-garde? Experimental? Tired? Trash? Everyone is divided. At Four Three Film, Isobel Yeap wrote that it is “a fascinating feminist film. It prioritizes Tilly’s relationship with her mother over her romantic relationship.” The plotting is strong, wrote Elise Nakhnikian for Slant, but “the frequent contemptuousness the film displays toward its characters keeps the audience at arm's length, making all the angst and intrigue on display in Dungatar read as strenuous playacting.” Regardless of the movie's other qualities, the best performance comes from Judy Davis — it’s worth seeing for her alone. Davis’ performance “provides a much-needed anchor in the middle of a whirlpool of discordant, clanging nonsense,” wrote Rebecca Pahle for Film Journal International.

    Released September 23

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    My Blind Brother
    Starring: Jenny Slate, Adam Scott, Nick Kroll, Zoe Kazan
    Rated: R
    Tomatometer: 79%
    Synopsis: A funny lady dates a blind sports star and his seeing brother.

    What’s The Word: Slate, Scott, and Kroll make a winning team. At Variety, Andrew Barker called it a “winningly featherweight romantic comedy.” It’s also a part of a new-ish genre of comedies: “The studio-produced romantic comedy may be flatlining, but who cares, so long as snappy indies like this one step up to fill the void?” asked Kimberly Jones in the Austin Chronicle. At the Arizona Republic, Barbara VanDenburgh found its humor very respectful: “It's a slight film, but one that hits all the tricky emotional and comedic notes without a hint of cruelty,” she wrote.

    Released September 23

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    The Magnificent Seven
    Starring: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt, Peter Sarsgaard, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Luke Grimes, Lee Byung-hun
    Rated: PG-13
    Tomatometer: 63%
    Synopsis: Seven gunslinging outlaws fight to protect a town from a cold-hearted industrialist.

    What’s The Word: It’s not as good as John Sturges’ iconic original, but then, it never could be. This is a solid effort at remaking a classic. “While it might not launch a Western cinematic resurgence, The Magnificent Seven gives the genre a much needed shot in the arm. Say hello to the fall's first big blockbuster,” wrote Jeffrey Lyles for Lyles’ Movie Files. At the Austin American-Statesman, Joe Gross pointed out an interesting paradox about the movie’s self-consciousness: “Everyone seems a little too aware that they are Making A Western For A Modern Audience rather than throwing themselves headfirst into making a Western for a modern audience.” At the Associated Press, Lindsey Bahr gets right to the point: the two stars. "You could do worse than putting it all in the capable hands of Denzel Washington, with some help from Chris Pratt," she wrote.

    Released September 23