This week's new offerings include a children's toy coming to life to scare, a world where The Beatles are only a bug and a glimpse at an all-female crew during a yacht race.
With Annabelle Comes Home continuing with the universe of all things Conjuring, the film hitting theaters Wednesday competes with last week's similarly themed Child’s Play at the box office.
In contrast, Maiden, a documentary about an all-female yacht crew competing in the Whitbread Round the World Race of 1989, depicts the harsh reality of the sea and showcases a feminist story from a few decades back.
Shakespeare fans may be interested in checking out Ophelia, a reimagined Hamlet of sorts, this one focusing on Hamlet’s love interest. Meanwhile, Beatles fans contemplate over Yesterday, which shows a world where the group never existed and their songs are made famous by the only man who remembers them.
Three Peaks, an Italian-German film, centers on the dynamics of family and the relationship of a man with his girlfriend’s son.
Here's what The Hollywood Reporter critics thought of this week's films.
Franchise screenwriter and now director Gary Dauberman continues with the Conjuring realm to tell the story of paranormal investigators who try to lock up the possessed doll and restrain the amount of havoc it can cause. During a night out for the two parents, their 10-year-old daughter has a few friends over, one of them going into the artifact room holding Annabelle and other tainted objects and entities, leading to Annabelle gaining influence other the other items and tormenting the children. The movie stars Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson and Mckenna Grace.
According to THR film critic Justin Lowe, the plot starts out promising but then grows tiresome as the story runs its course: “Although it makes for an initially absorbing narrative and filmmaking challenge, with nowhere for the characters to run or hide, the thrills and shocks gradually become repetitive, as the writer-director recycles his own material, forcing the girls to evade the same threats again and again.”
Lowe also addresses the back-to-back horror film releases, writing: “With the rare coincidence of two demonic doll features debuting less than a week apart, there's little doubt that Annabelle Comes Home will not only dominate Child's Play, but likely many of the weekend's other new offerings as well.”
Maiden follows the story of the first all-female crew during an around-the-world yacht race in 1989. Alex Holmes, the director who also worked on Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story, focuses on Tracy Edwards, a woman who tells of her desire to be at sea and her persistence about getting there while being dismissed in a male-dominated world.
The film integrates archival material — some footage which the women took themselves — and interviews with Edwards and her crewmembers. During the interviews, they describe the ruthless environments they endured, like crossing the Southern Ocean near Antarctica, where the women had to be strapped to the boat due to the extreme winds, and the temperatures being so low it took an hour to put on and take off layers to go outside.
THR critic Caryn James described the doc as “gripping and effective even if — maybe especially if — you have absolutely no interest in sailing.” She also noted that Holmes created a story that “flips gracefully between past and present as it turns a decades-old yachting race into an inspiring feminist adventure.”
Based on Lisa Klein’s 2006 young adult novel Ophelia, the story is a reimagined version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, told instead through the perspective of Hamlet’s love interest.
The movie was directed by Claire McCarthy and stars Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, George MacKay, Clive Owen and Tom Felton. The cast told The Hollywood Reporter at Sundance that their view of Shakespeare’s story emphasizes the importance of a strong woman, and in today’s political climate it connects with core ideas drifting around.
In Todd McCarthy’s review of the film, he wrote that “this vigorous, colorful and clever melodrama smartly rethinks both the play and the character, making her a far more proactive figure than Shakespeare did in addition to entirely reimagining her fate.”
Never read Hamlet? Not to worry, McCarthy wrote: “Although the pic will mean more to viewers who know the play than to newcomers, a familiarity with the story is in no way a prerequisite for understanding or enjoying a work so ripe with intrigue, secrets, murder and no end of illicit goings-on.”
German writer-director Jan Zabeil depicts symbolic rock formations and complicated family dynamics in his latest film, Three Peaks. In this German-Italian drama, a man’s relationship with his girlfriend’s son is depicted, balancing between an ideal father figure and not, unfolding in Italy’s Dolomites mountain range. Perhaps more impressive than the mountain range is the cast’s ability to change between French, German and English throughout the movie. The film, which stars Berenice Nejo, Alexander Fehling and newcomer Arian Montgomery, won the Piazza Grande prize when it premiered at Locarno in 2017.
THR film critic Neil Young wrote that “the picture proceeds too often as a glacier-paced exercise, striving to breathe the rarefied air of challenging artistic altitudes,” a trait that Zabeil's first film The River Used to Be a Man also had. Following on his first film, Zabeil “develops his earlier theme of how men define themselves and their masculinity in extreme situations and wilderness conditions.”
Young added that Three Peaks was “captured in pin-sharp digital widescreen by cinematographer Axel Schneppat via a palette of grays and blues" and that "the awe-inspiring backdrop of the Alto Adige region effectively emphasizes the fragility of the tiny humans who traverse its challenges.”
From the mind of Richard Curtis, the writer behind Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, Yesterday stars Lily James, Ed Sheeran, Kate McKinnon, Joel Fry and newcomer Himesh Patel. Directed by Danny Boyle, helmer of the Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire, the film follows Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), the only man to remember The Beatles following a worldwide power outage, and his career as he starts singing Beatles songs as his own.
John DeFore’s THR review maintained that the film is “crowd-pleasing and sometimes enjoyable, but pretty damned dumb when you stop to think about it" in that the movie leaves “pretty much everything else in pop culture [...] as we know it. That's both a giant failure of imagination and a silent insult to the impact of the songs we're supposed to be honoring here.”
Regardless of the flaws, DeFore praised Kate McKinnon, who “plays the film's most entertaining character, Debra, a music agent whose eagerness to milk Jack's talent fits the Saturday Night Live performer's gifts perfectly.”