In Theaters This Weekend: Reviews of 'Isn't It Romantic,' 'Alita: Battle Angel' and More

8:30 AM 2/15/2019

by Jasmyne Bell and Alexandra Del Rosario

See what The Hollywood Reporter's critics had to say about Friday's releases.

'Isn't It Romantic'
'Isn't It Romantic'
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

This Friday, moviegoers can catch a wide array of pics, from the action-sci-fi flick Alita: Battle Angel to the redemption drama Donnybrook, which features the talents of Jamie Bell and Margaret Qualley. 

Other titles include the rom-com parody Isn't It Romantic starring Rebel Wilson; Hotel by the River, a Korean film that brings viewers into the artistic wonder of foreign filmmaking; and Ruben Brandt, Collector, an animated abstract tale. 

Read on to see what The Hollywood Reporter's critics thought about this weekend's lineup of releases.

 

  • 'Alita: Battle Angel'

    Release Date: Feb. 13

    Set in the city of Iron City nearly 500 years in the future, Alita: Battle Angel follows a half-human half-cyborg who must come to terms with the dark and violent past of her robot self as she tries to live a normal teenager life. 

    The film's titular character, played by Rosa Salazar, then joins her father's band of bounty hunters to right the wrongs done by those in the hovering land of Zalem and learn the truth behind who she truly is. 

    Here's what THR critic Stephen Dalton had to say about the anime-based flick: "This kick-ass cyberpunk adventure seems to be aiming for the same blockbusting box office heights as the Hunger Games franchise. But a lumpy script, muddled plot, stock characters and tired genre tropes may dampen its commercial breakout potential beyond its core sci-fi action-fantasy demographic," he writes. "While not exactly a misfire, [Robert] Rodriguez and [James] Cameron's joint effort lacks the zing and originality of their best individual work."

  • 'Isn't It Romantic'

    Release Date: Feb. 13

    Things get meta in Isn't It Romantic.

    In the anti-rom-com romantic comedy, Rebel Wilson plays Natalie, a working woman in Manhattan, who finds herself the protagonist of a romantic comedy (a genre she detests) following an accident. Flower-filled scenes, musical numbers and PG-13 romance begin in this self-reflexive flick. 

    In her review of the film, THR critic Sheri Linden lauds the work done by cinematographer Simon Duggan and design team leaders Sharon Seymour and Leah Katznelson in truly bringing the vividness and charisma of romantic comedies to the film's fantasyland. 

    But despite the vibrant visuals of the film's rom-com setting, Linden said the evidently falls flat but will still pull audiences. "There's plenty of meh in this meta concoction, but that won't keep it from attracting girls' nights out and date-night couples during its Valentine's week bow," she writes. 

  • 'Happy Death Day 2U'

    Release Date: Feb. 15

    The 2017 slasher film is back for a second round with Happy Death Day 2U.

    The first Happy Death Day presented a Groundhog Day type of scenario with a horror twist where college student Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) relives the day she dies over and over again until she learns who her murderer is. In the sequel, Tree unexpectedly finds herself in the events of the first film. This time around, her friends are also involved in the loop and she must discover the pic's new killer to stop the endless cycle of murders.

    THR's John DeFore writes, "Though some parts of his setup are clever, Landon's execution turns almost maudlin in the third act, with drawn-out goodbye scenes and Hallmarky life lessons that fit uncomfortably in the kind of cheeky genre pic that might (as this one does) try to make us laugh with a montage of its protagonist's flippant suicides."

  • 'Fighting With My Family'

    Release Date: Feb. 13

    Fighting With My Family, a star-studded biopic from Stephen Merchant, recounts the rise to fame of WWE star Paige. The film stars Florence Pugh as the WWE wrestler, Nick Frost and Lena Headey as her parents and Dwayne Johnson as himself. 

    Despite being a film that depicts the nitty-gritty of American wrestling, THR critic John DeFore said Merchant's latest feature fails to take any risks. "The pic ends on the one and only chance she gets to tell the world who she truly is. There wasn't enough struggle to get here to justify any sense of triumph," DeFore writes about the lackluster, run-of-the-mill sports story. "Though Paige does conquer her demons, her entry into the pro arena is underwhelming." 

  • 'Donnybrook'

    Release Date: Feb. 15

    In Donnybrook, an ex-marine (Jamie Bell) is desperate to make a better life for himself and his family, which leads him to compete in an illegal cage match where bare-knuckled brawlers fight for a $100,000 prize. Meanwhile, a raging drug dealer, Chainsaw Angus (Frank Grillo), is also after the prize.

    "[Writer-director Tim] Sutton peppers the duo's odyssey with self-consciously poetic scenery and condescendingly employed local color," writes THR critic Keith Uhlich, "... as well as extraneous subplot about a troubled lawman on Angus' tail." 

  • 'Hotel by the River' ('Gangbyun Hotel')

    Release Date: Feb. 15

    In this black-and-white feature, an aging poet, Younghwan (Ki Joobong), begins to feel like he is close to reaching the end of his life. He summons his two estranged sons to a hotel to be together in solitude.

    While he waits for them to arrive, he meets two women who have come to the hotel to take care of some personal matters of their own, and is struck by their beauty. As Younghwan's mind switches focus between the women and his sons, it also moves between the state of walking on the street, and walking through eternity.

    "Even if you took away the fact that the story is set in South Korea and is Korean, it wouldn't be too hard to recognize the autuerist fingerprints of Hong Sang-soo," writes THR critic Boyd Van Hoeij. "From the dialogue, which is by turns witty, self-referential, poetic and repetitive, to restaurant scenes involving heavy drinking, to the way the camera and mis-en-scene frequently opt for a kind of uncluttered simplicity that allows the work's various ruminations to take canter stage."

  • 'Ruben Brandt, Collector'

    Release Date: Feb. 15

    In this animated drama, a famous psychotherapist named Ruben Brandt is forced to steal 13 paintings from multiple art museums around the world in order to prevent nightmares that stem from his childhood trauma. When he takes his four patients on the hunt to steal invaluable art, he immediately becomes one of the most wanted criminals in the world. The reward for his capture reaches a hundred million dollars, and insurance companies hire a private detective to solve the "Collector Case."

    "If you asked someone to come up with an animated fiction folly that incorporated elements of psychology, film history and half the artists indexed in H.W. Janson's monumental reference tome, History of Art, chances are it would look something like Ruben Brandt, Collector," writes THR critic Boyd Van Hoeij.

  • 'Birds of Passage' ('Pajaros de verano')

    Release Date: Feb. 13

    Mixing scenes of native ritual and spirituality with the violence and tensions of the drug trade, Birds of Passage hit select theaters on Wednesday. The film, from the minds behind Embrace of the Serpent, follows the tensions and bloodshed that arise when members of a Native Colombian clan find themselves caught up in American efforts to ship cannabis to the U.S.

    Jordan Mintzer, a critic at THR, called the film from Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra a "superbly crafted, unhurriedly paced feature." He continued to revere the movie for its cinematography and its exploration of conflict. 

    "One of the key merits of Birds of Passage is to reveal, with painstaking detail, how the drug trade devastates those people who lie at the very start of the supply chain," he writes. "The drama feels a bit leisurely and distant at times, and the film runs a little long, yet it intelligently and assuredly explores how longstanding traditions can be gradually upended by drugs, money and outside influences."

  • 'Sorry Angel'

    Release Date: Feb. 15

    Set in 1993 Paris, Sorry Angel features a writer and single father, Jacques (Pierre Dolanchamps), who is trying to find the balance of humor and romance regardless of the external turmoil in his life.

    On a work trip to Brittany, he meets an aspiring young filmmaker named Arthur (Vincent Lacoste) undergoing an awakening of some sort. Arthur instantly becomes interested in Jacques. Their romance displays the deep emotion that comes with love, loss and everything in between.

    "The willingness to throw out the narrative playbook, or at least reshuffle its pages, is evident in how the filmmaker handles the romantic arc, too," writes THR critic Jon Frosch. "Sorry Angel unspools more as a study of two sporadically intertwined lives than a conventionally structured love story."