What To See (And What to Skip) In the Theatres This Weekend

If you see just one Spider-man movie this year, why not see a whole lot of them at once? 

That’s what you get in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Rating: A), the new wildly inventive animated film from the producers of The Lego Movie , features the first black Latino Spider boy, though he’s just one of the several web-slingers in different forms, who pop through one of those rips in the space-time continuum. Jim Slotek declares this “crazily imaginative, hilarious and frenetic animated feature” is “practically a palate-cleanser for comic book earnestness.”

Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse: As many arachnids as it takes!

Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse: As many arachnids as it takes!

Now, back to the earnestness. This week’s seasonal frock drama is Mary, Queen of Scots (Rating: B), starring Saoirse Ronan as the unfortunate Catholic Queen, and Margot Robbie as her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, in a film tracing their different lives until Mary’s last unfortunate day.  Reviewer Kim Hughes did not lose her head over the movie, a film she describes as historically accurate and beautiful to look at but with a dull pall.

In our other bio-pic, Blaze (Rating: C-plus), Ethan Hawke, taking the director’s chair,  traces the life of the late Texas singer-songwriter, Blaze Foley, starring Ben Dickey and Alia Shawkat as his wife, Sybil Rosen, whose memoir inspired the first half of the film. Jim Slotek found the cameo-stuffed film deficient in grit and somewhat meandering in tracing Blaze’s downward spiral.

Also based on a true story is The Mule (Rating: B)  directed by and starring 88-year-old Clint Eastwood as an egocentric flower enthusiast who starts transporting cocaine for a Mexican cartel to impress his estranged family. More a well-crafted sentimental comedy than a hard drama, it’s an entertaining “old man” road movie, says reviewer Liam Lacey, if not on the level of The Straight Story or Nebraska.

For another perspective on drugs in the family, we have a possible Oscar acting contender, Ben Is Back (Rating: B-plus), starring Julia Roberts as the mom, whose son (Lucas Hedges) shows up on Christmas morning, straight from a rehab facility, an appearance that gets more complicated when someone steals the family dog. Karen Gordon says the drama, written and directed by Lucas Hedges’ father, Peter Hedges (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) is somewhat uneven but superbly acted by Roberts and Hedges.

Because it just wouldn’t be Christmas without a post-apocalyptic fantasy, we have two of them this week. Long-time Peter Jackson collaborator Christian Rivers brings us Mortal Engines (Rating: C minus), a young-adult story about a future where giant predator cities like London, roll around Europe on big tank treads ingesting smaller towns. 

There’s lots of expensive eye-candy onscreen says Liam Lacey, but the script is clogged with clichés.  On the budget side, Lowell Dean’s Super-Grid is a predictable but decently-executed calling card feature, says Jim Slotek, starring Saskatchewan as a future wasteland, where sibling mercenaries Jesse and Deke (Leo Fafard and Marshall Williams) make a run through the lawless territory populated by murderous mutants to pick up a mysterious cargo. Both Mortal Engines and Super-Grid feature an Asian female assassin, apparently de rigueur for post-apocalyptic dramas.

Have a great weekend.