In Theaters This Friday: Reviews of 'Best of Enemies,' 'Pet Sematary,' 'Shazam!' and More

8:30 AM 4/5/2019

by Jasmyne Bell

Read what The Hollywood Reporter's critics have to say about this weekend's releases.

This Friday, audiences can head to their local theater to view a variety of new releases.

The Best of Enemies, starring Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell, is the true story of a civil rights activist and a Ku Klux Klan leader who come upon conflict when North Carolina is in the process of desegregating its schools. Pet Sematary is the insidious tale inspired by Stephen King's novel about a family from the city that moves onto a property not far from a haunted burial ground.

Other titles audiences can enjoy include Shazam!, DC Comics' most recent superhero pic, which follows the story of Billy Batson, a 14-year-old foster kid who turns into a full-grown adult man named Shazam (Zachary Levi) when he yells a certain phrase; Amazing Grace is a documentary feature highlighting Aretha Franklin's performance of her best-selling gospel album; and High Life is A24's latest sci-fi thriller featuring Robert Pattinson as a man who was on a space mission gone wrong.

Read on to take a look at what The Hollywood Reporter said about the rest of this weekend's releases.

  • 'Amazing Grace'

    Release date: April 5

    Amazing Grace features concert footage from the legendary Aretha Franklin performing her best-selling gospel album at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles in 1972.

    "Amazing Grace will not enter the pantheon of concert films — it's somewhat shapeless as a movie, and gives little sense of emotional insight into the performer," says THR critic John DeFore. "But it does contain moments of bliss: As astonishing as the sound of Franklin's singing in 1972 remains, watching her do it is even better."

  • 'The Best of Enemies'

    Release date: April 5

    The Best of Enemies follows the shocking true story of the relationship between Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson), a civil rights activist, and C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell), a local Klu Klux Klan leader who was fighting against desegregating schools in 1971 North Carolina. 

    "Anyone bracing for a Green Book-style explosion of justified outrage at The Best of Enemies can breathe a little," writes THR critic Caryn James. "This fact-based story about how Durham, N.C., schools were integrated, thanks to a black woman and a white man who learn to work together, is generic. But while it lacks the ambition to turn its obvious plot into a film that feels new, it also avoids the pitfalls of moral smugness and stereotyping. It flows along easily, bolstered by Taraji P. Henson’s and Sam Rockwell’s vibrant performances."

     

  • 'High Life'

    Release date: April 5

    Monte (Robert Pattinson) and his daughter are the last ones standing after a space mission gone wrong. The death row inmates led by a doctor (Juliette Binoche) with ill intentions have disappeared. The mystery on the ship begins to unravel, and the father-daughter duo must rely on each other for support as they head toward a black hole.

    "Set almost entirely aboard a floating penal colony that looks like a shipping container on the outside and a boiler room/urgent care clinic on the inside, the film eschews many classic science-fiction cliches while providing a few moments of space opera bliss," says THR critic Jordan Mintzer. "But mostly it’s a dark, carnal claustrophobic and at times bluntly violent chamber piece that takes place on a vessel racing toward its inevitable doom."

  • 'Pet Sematary'

    Release date: April 5

    Based on Stephen King's chilling novel, Pet Sematary follows Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), who, after moving to rural Maine with his wife, Rachel (Amy Seimetz), and their two kids, finds a burial ground in the woods near their new home. When an unfortunate event strikes the family with tragedy, Louis seeks out his odd neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), to help him perform a gruesome task. Chaos is unleashed when they realize the consequences of summoning dark forces.

    "Unfortunately but not fatally, the movie soon makes this reanimated loved one more monstrous than unsettling, possessed of unlikely strength and a little too similar to the growling monster-people found in garden-variety horror films," writes THR's John DeFore.

  • 'Peterloo'

    Release date: April 5

    In this historical drama, director Mike Leigh recounts an infamous piece of British history, the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. The event consisted of the British government charging into a crowd of 80,000 who gathered in Manchester to demand democratic reform.

    THR critic Stephen Dalton commented on Leigh's latest film: "Peterloo has been the subject of much negative speculation since its surprise exclusion from Cannes, where Leigh has a long prize-winning track record. Sadly, the naysayers were not far wrong, because this sprawling passion project is oddly low on passion, falling uneasily between starchy historical pageant and tub-thumping polemical melodrama."

  • 'The Public'

    Release date: April 5

    When Cincinnati is hit with a brutal polar storm and a homeless man is found dead outside the public library, Stuart is confronted by a man named Jackson (Michael K. Williams), who claims there is not enough shelter in the city for all of them. Things quickly take a turn for the unexpected when the men band together to stage a nonviolent sit-in after the public library closes. What starts as an act of civil disobedience quickly dissolves into a standoff when the police department, led by Detective Bill Ramstead (Alec Baldwin) and district attorney Josh Davis (Christian Slater), gets involved.

    "Though it’s a far cry from the sophisticated filmmaking of Frederick Wiseman’s notable 2017 documentary Ex Libris: The New York Public Library, [director-star Emilio] Estevez’s The Public is a close relative at least in spirit: Both films suggest that a free public library is the last bastion of a democratic society," says THR's Deborah Young. "It becomes the emblematic setting for a standoff between America’s poor and dispossessed on one hand, and an evil mix of the police, an ambitious public prosecutor and the ever-avid media on the other. Its strong conviction should click with like-minded audiences in these times of polarized politics."

  • 'Shazam!'

    Release date: April 5

    In DC Comics' newest film, Asher Angel takes on the role of Billy Batson, a 14-year-old foster kid who acquires superpowers from an ancient wizard. All it takes is the utterance of one word for him to transform into the adult superhero, Shazam (Zachary Levi). As a child in the body of an indestructible superhero, he tests out his new superpowers — but it's only a matter of time before he has to battle the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong).

    THR's Frank Scheck gave praise to the superhero movie: "Shazam! also benefits from the terrific performances by both the adult and younger performers. Levi is a delight in the central role, hilariously conveying the goofy adolescent within the strapping body of his muscle-bound superhero. Angel and Grazer work together beautifully as the teenage boys bonding over their joy at discovering Shazam's powers, and Strong uses his fierce intensity and taut physicality to make his villain suitably fearsome even while providing subtle comic flourishes along the way."

  • 'Suburban Birds (Jiao qu de niao)'

    Release date: April 5

    Courtesy of CHAN Films

    Suburban Birds follows an engineer named Hao (Zihan Gong) who is asked to investigate a ground subsidence with a group of other engineers. After days looking for answers and lugging around heavy gear in an empty suburb, Hao wanders into an elementary school where he finds a boy's diary that might hold prophecies for his life.

    "Clearly influenced by such art house Asian puzzlemeisters as Hong Sang-Soo, Tsai Ming-liang and Apichatpong Weerasethakul as well as other talents closer to home, [Sheng] Qiu takes delight in teasing the audience with inexplicable temporal twists and turns, so that the two stories overlap and echo one another. That means it’s anyone’s guess as to what’s happening before, during or after each narrative strand. Best to just roll with it as this is the very definition of a 'festival film,'" writes THR critic Leslie Felperin.

  • 'The Wind'

    Release date: April 5

    When Lizzy (Caitlin Gerard), a tough frontierswoman in 19th-century America, senses that there may be a sinister presence disturbing her deserted wilderness home, her husband (Ashley Zukerman) dismisses her worries as superstition. A newlywed couple moves to a nearby homestead, amplifying Lizzy's anxiety and kickstarting a chain reaction of unusual events. They learn quickly that the force that is haunting them may be more than just the wind.

    "A femme-centric Western and supernatural horror flick all rolled into one log cabin in the middle of nowhere, The Wind marks an admirable if somewhat, er, overblown feature debut from screenwriter Teresa Sutherland and director Emma Tammi," comments THR critic Jordan Mintzer.