In Theaters This Weekend: Reviews of 'Mortal Engines,' 'Spider-Verse,' 'The Mule' and More

8:15 AM 12/14/2018

by Linda Xu

Clint Eastwood's 'The Mule' will open nationwide and 'If Beale Street Could Talk' and 'Capharnaum' will play in select theaters.

SPIDER-MAN- INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE Still 1 - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation

This Friday, theatergoers can step into a multidimensional Spider-Verse or a dystopian world ruled by moving cities.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Mortal Engines will both hit theaters this weekend. They join Clint Eastwood's latest film, The Mule, which features the 88-year-old actor playing a drug courier.

Limited releases include Barry Jenkins' follow-up to Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, as well as Lebanese drama Capharnaum.

Read on to see what critics for The Hollywood Reporter had to say about this weekend's offerings.

  • 'Capharnaum'

    Actress and director Nadine Labaki's film revolves around a 12-year-old boy, Zain, who lives in the slums of Lebanon. Capharnaum follows several events in his life, such as suing his parents for giving birth to him and having to suddenly care for a one-year-old child. 

    THR critic Leslie Felperin praises Labaki's work, writing, "She's made up a grab bag of ideas and plot elements that work surprisingly effectively as a melodrama with a message."

  • 'If Beale Street Could Talk'

    Based on the eponymous 1974 James Baldwin novel, Barry Jenkin's If Beale Street Could Talk unravels the love story of Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), the latter of whom is falsely accused of raping a Puerto Rican woman. Newly pregnant Tish and her family embark on a legal battle to clear his name. 

    "Even if the climax is underpowered, the drama is fully inhabited and alive with vibrant texture," writes THR critic David Rooney. "Rarely have faces been photographed in such loving detail."

  • 'Mortal Engines'

    Christian Rivers makes his feature-film directing debut with Mortal Engines, which is based on the first installment of the book series by Philip Reeve. It features London as a predatory moving city, infiltrated by Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), a young woman on a quest for vengeance.

    Rivers has previously worked under producer Peter Jackson as a visual effects supervisor on numerous films including the Lord of the Rings trilogy. "He's done a more than competent job, but while there's plenty to look at on the screen, there's little to excite the senses or stimulate the imagination," THR's Todd McCarthy writes of the director.

  • 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse'

    Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse boasts several iterations of the titular superhero, the primary one being 13-year-old Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), the first biracial Spider-Man. After he's bitten by a radioactive spider, the young teenager receives some guidance from an older Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) on how to adapt to his powers.

    McCarthy lauds the visual style of the animated film, noting that it "looks both computer-driven and hand-drawn, boasts futuristic as well as funky urban elements, moves the 'camera' a lot and brings together a melting pot of mostly amusing new characters."

  • 'The Mule'

    The Mule is based on the real-life story of Leo Sharp, a World-War II veteran who became the the world's oldest drug courier after smuggling cocaine for the Sinaloa cartel in his 80s. Clint Eastwood's character, horticulturist Earl Stone, is based on Sharp — the actor also directed and produced the film.

    McCarthy writes in his review: "To praise The Mule by saying that it's the best film ever made by an 88-year-old American director who also stars in it is to say nothing at all, because there's never been such a thing before. Nor should Clint Eastwood's 37th feature be damned with faint praise this way, as no caveats or excuses are needed."