Reviews: 'The Hate U Give,' 'Bad Times,' 'The Sisters Brothers' and 'First Man' launch into theaters
Universal Pictures, 2018.

It seemed like it took forever for award season to get here, but man has it arrived and then some! This weekend sees a large crop of films hitting theaters, all vying to catch the eyes of movie-goers and critics alike. Let's get into it!

Here are reviews for new films opening in theaters Friday, Oct. 12th, 2018:


"The Hate U Give"

With all of the movies hitting theaters this weekend, let's hope that "The Hate U Give" doesn't get lost in the shuffle. It's one of the year's best films and is important and relevant to current events.

Amandla Stenberg gives an award-worthy performance as Starr, a young woman living a double-life between her black community and the white prep school she attends. After witnessing a fatal shooting, Starr feels the tear from both sides and comes to find herself and what she stands for along the way.

This is one of the best ensembles of the year, with each and every character really feeling fleshed out and representing some aspect of society. Standing out above the rest is Russell Hornsby and Regina Hall, who play Starr’s parents, and who in a perfect world would also get some awards-season love. Some characters go against type, while others fill all-too familiar stereotypes. And despite the long running time (over two hours), there isn't one minute that feels unnecessary.

This is just a powerful, yet accessible movie, not just a coming-of-age story, but a coming-of-THIS-age, where in a polarized world a young person finds their way, and isn’t accepting of the “norms” that have stayed in place for generations. It isn't afraid to address tough questions, or show things as they really are, yet it's done in a simplistic way that lends itself to the straight-forward message.

Again it’s one of the year’s best, and here's hoping it finds an audience.

Grade: A

Rated PG-13.
Genre: Crime, Drama. Run Time: 2 hours 12 minutes.
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Anthony Mackie, Common, Algee Smith.
Directed by George Tillman Jr. ("The Longest Ride," "Notorious," "Soul Food").


"Bad Times at the El Royale"

"Bad Times at the El Royale" is an ensemble crime caper with an all-star cast, from Jeff Bridges and Dakota Johnson, to Jon Hamm and Chris Hemsworth. This film is written and directed by Drew Goddard, who did the fantastic horror/comedy "The Cabin in the Woods" a few years back and who has written for great shows like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Alias" and "Lost."

This movie has a coolness factor to it that will remind you of a Quentin Tarantino movie, but that’s not really a good thing when you realize that Tarantino would have probably done it better. The longer this film goes on, the more the wheels seem to fall off, to the point where when Chris Hemsworth is dancing around barefoot like a tree-huggin’ hippy, you’ll wonder what the heck you’re even watching.

"Bad Times" provides little payoff after a pretty cool set-up, but the look and feel of the film will make you walk away thinking you've just seen something slick and special, not realizing that it was mostly just flash and neon lights.

Grade: B-

Rated R.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller. Run Time: 2 hours 21 minutes.
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Nick Offerman.
Written and Directed by Drew Goddard ("The Cabin in the Woods").


"The Old Man and the Gun"

If "The Old Man and the Gun" is really the last on-screen performance for screen legend Robert Redford, as it is being billed, then it’s a lovely, fitting swan song.

Redford plays a real-life senior citizen bank robber, Forrest Tucker, who baffled authorities after a string of heists back in the 70s. This one also stars Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Tom Waits and Danny Glover, and while it’s sort of light and amusing, and breezy and fun, it’s almost too much so…as a narrative, it doesn’t really have much bite or much to say. It does feel like a film that might have actually come out in the 70s, from the style of editing to the opening and closing graphics, if not for Redford's wrinkles.

It has been more than a pleasure to watch Robert Redford, a national treasure if there ever was one, and here you can almost tell that he’s ready to hang ‘em up. "The Old Man and the Gun" won’t stand-out among other films this year, but it will be remembered fondly, much like its star and subject.

Grade: B

Rated PG-13.
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama. Run Time: 1 hour 33 minutes.
Starring: Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Tika Sumpter.
Co-Written and Directed by David Lowery ("A Ghost Story," "Ain't Them Bodies Saints").


"The Sisters Brothers"

There’s a strange, confusing new Western in theaters this weekend, curiously called "The Sisters Brothers." Starring John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix - and having a sort-of funny title like "The Sisters Brothers" - it would lead one to think that this is some kind of comedy, but if you are thinking that going in you're going to be sorely mistaken. Instead, this is a misguided, uninteresting road picture that sees two assassin brothers, played by Reilly and Phoenix, as they travel across the west in the midst of the Gold Rush, attempting to haul in a chemist (Riz Ahmed), who has discovered some new method of finding gold. Jake Gyllenhaal also stars, with Danny Glover, Tom Waits and Tika Sumpter filling in some supporting roles.

It's not quite clear who this movie is for, what it is, or what it was even trying to be. There are some good sequences (Reilly learning how to use a toothbrush or watching him swallow a spider in his sleep are stand-outs), but mostly this movie feels like a wasted opportunity, given the talent involved. For all the ground the brothers cover, the movie really seems to go nowhere, and slowly.

"The Sisters Brothers" has the makings of a memorable Western, but you really have to sift through a lot to find even a few gold nuggets with this one...and the effort isn't quite worth the reward.

Grade: C-

Rated R.
Genre: Western, Adventure, Crime. Run Time: 2 hours 1 minute.
Starring: John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed.
Co-Written and Directed by Jacques Audiard ("Dheepan," "Rust and Bone").


"First Man"

Last and certainly not least this week is "First Man," the latest film from "Whiplash" and "La La Land" director Damien Chazelle, starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong. This movie lives up to all the hype it's getting, and this too is one of the year’s best films.

Gosling gives a subdued, heart-breaking performance as the NASA hero, but even space buffs may not know exactly what he and his colleagues went through on the first manned mission to the moon, or what Armstrong went through in his personal life. There is a difference between Gosling's "flat" performance in a movie like "Drive" and his "internal" performance here: One is detached and distant while the other is powerful and pulls you in. The Academy rarely awards performances that are subdued - they usually like scene-chewing and big, flashy performances - but they would do well to consider Gosling here, doing some of the best work of his career.

If I had one quibble, it’s that Claire Foy is given the clichéd role of supportive housewife who is worried while her husband is away…a role that is clearly beneath her talents. But Chazelle puts us in the cockpit and in the action like no other space film has, and somehow makes this a human story, much more focused on the “small step for man” and less on the “giant leap for mankind.”

It’s another work of art from Chazelle, an enthralling adventure with real-life consequences and some unforgettable sequences of action and wonder. Chazelle and Gosling have done it again, as "First Man" soars.

Grade: A-

Rated PG-13.
Genre: Biography, Drama, History. Run Time: 2 hours 21 minutes.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Christopher Abbott, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Shea Whigham, Ciaran Hinds.
Directed by Damien Chazelle ("La La Land," "Whiplash").


All of these movies open Friday, Oct. 12th, 2018. Check here for show times.

Movies opening next week include: "Halloween" and "The Oath."