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Tricks and treats, a tested family relationship and some very conspicuous spies are among what’s headed to theaters this weekend in Keeping Up With the Joneses, Jack Reacher: Never Going Back, Boo! A Madea Halloween, Ouija: Origin of Evil and American Pastoral.
Read on to find out what The Hollywood Reporter’s critics are saying about the weekend’s new offerings, and click here to see how they’re expected to perform at the box office.
Getting to know your new neighbors is always a tricky process. Now imagine finding out your neighbors are actually government spies. Director Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) brings this idea to the big screen in his latest film, Keeping Up With the Joneses. Jeff Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis) and his wife, Karen (Isla Fisher), are a quiet couple living a comfortable life in a quiet suburb. Jeff is a cheerful HR manager, Karen an unmotivated interior designer. Their life is normal and relatively uneventful until their new neighbors, the Joneses, move in. Underneath their guise as travel writer and social media editor with a food blog, Tim (Jon Hamm) and Natalie Jones (Gal Gadot) are actually top-secret spies. While the idea is there, THR’s film critic Jon Frosch doesn’t believe the film delivers. “Mottola and LeSieur fumble the big set pieces, including a sequence that finds the Gaffneys breaking into the Jones residence to look for clues; the rhythm is off, the jokes don’t land, the gags are sluggish and unimaginative,” writes Frosch. “You know things are dire when one of the most amusing bits consists of Jeff accidentally smashing Karen’s head into a wall.” Read the full review here.
Jack Reacher: Never Going Back
Returning to his non-Mission: Impossible secret-agent role, Tom Cruise once again becomes Jack Reacher, the unstoppable ex-military police commander with a passion for justice. THR film critic Todd McCarthy thinks the film unoriginal. “The film serves up nothing that hasn’t been seen in countless action films before, and it’s striking how little effort appears to have been made to give it any distinction,” explains McCarthy. “Undistinguished visually, this marks a return to the old days, when sequels were almost always markedly inferior to originals that spawned them.” Read the full review here.
In his directorial debut, Ewan McGregor takes the audience through the complex and emotional narrative of Phillip Roth’s 1997 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Set in Newark, N.J.,but filmed in around Pittsburgh, the film follows the Levov family as their picturesque life unravels when 16-year-old daughter Merry (Dakota Fanning) disappears after being accused of bombing a local post office. The father, Seymour Levov (Ewan McGregor), nicknamed “Swede,” was a legendary high school athlete and former Marine. The mother, Dawn (Jennifer Connelly), was a former beauty queen. “With Swede cast as the ever-earnest, heartbroken dad and his wife Dawn much more easily slamming the door on the daughter she’s given up on as a hopeless cause,” writes THR film critic Todd McCarthy, “the film’s ripest dramatic opportunities fall to Fanning, who rises to the occasion with her best big-screen work in a number of years.” Read the full review here.
Ouija: Origin of Evil
Breaking the chain of unworthy sequels, director Mike Flanagan crafts a chilling tale that even includes a sly allusion to The Exorcist, writes THR film critic Frank Scheck. Set 50 years before the original Ouija, the film focuses on the Zander family, which consists of widowed mother Alice (Elizabeth Reaser) and her two daughters, teenager Paulina (Annalise Basso) and 9-year-old Doris (Lulu Wilson). Alice runs a fake medium business out of her home, in which she uses her kids to help create the illusions that mystify her clients. One day she brings a new prop home: the Ouija board. “The Ouija board soon proves itself a genuine conduit to the spirit world, with little Doris becoming possessed by an entity that clearly has malevolent intentions,” writes Scheck. “Director-screenwriter Flanagan slowly ratchets up the tension, forgoing a heavy reliance on cheap jump scares (not that there aren’t a few).” Read the full review here.
Tyler Perry is back at it again with his fist-throwing, elderly character Madea. This time she’s taking on the ghouls and ghosts of Halloween. Tasked with babysitting her grandchildren on Halloween night, one of whom wants to attend a wild party at a local fraternity down the street, Madea must keep control of the house while also keeping her sanity. All the monsters are out to get her on a night filled with both tricks and treats. Scheck writes that the film is essentially critic-proof given that Perry has legions of faithful fans: “At this point, reviewing a Madea film is like a food critic reviewing the fare at McDonald’s. By any objective standard, it’s subpar, made of cheap ingredients and panders to the undiscriminating. But millions of people seem to love it, and happily come back for more.” Read the full review here.
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