There's a lot of buzz about the new Michael Moore documentary set to hit theaters next week, on Sept. 21. But slipping under the radar this week is a political documentary that audience-goers on both sides of the aisle should not miss.
Of course, there are a lot of other options this week at the movies no matter what your tastes. Here are our reviews of the new movies in theaters Friday, Sept. 14, 2018:
For those hoping that "The Predator" will somehow rejuvenate or re-launch this aimless franchise, think again.
Director Shane Black (who actually co-starred in the original 1987 "Predator" film) brings us the latest attempt to try to get this hapless series back on its feet. It's been eight years since the last in the franchise (2010's "Predators") and this latest incarnation is the sixth Predator film overall. Since that true-classic original, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, the series has struggled to define itself as anything more than a studio money-grab, and this time around, the audience is truly the prey.
Boyd Holbrook stars as Quinn McKenna, a disgruntled military sniper-specialist, who comes across an alien crash-site where he comes into possession of a Predator helmet and famed Predator gauntlet. The government, along with the dastardly villainous Traeger (Sterling K. Brown, hamming it up) swoops in to cover up the mess, so Quinn sends his new alien-wear to his estranged son, Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who is socially-awkward and suffering from Asperger's. Quinn and a bunch of escaped military rejects (Keegan-Michael Key, Trevante Rhodes, Alfie Allen, Thomas Jane and Augusto Aguilera) take it upon themselves to not only protect Rory from an incoming alien threat but to hunt the Predator, all while avoiding capture by Traeger...or something like that. Mixed into this is some kind of genetic scientist, Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn).
One could not have imagined that this franchise would sink so low as to introduce dreadlocked Preda-dogs, but this film has two of them. The dialogue throughout is forced and terrible, and nothing quite makes sense. Black infuses a somewhat silly and comedic tone, which isn't the right tone for this sort of film. After the success of the original "Predator," they've tried making the same movie in a different locale ("Predator 2"), they've tried pitting the Predator against other aliens (see the two "Alien vs. Predator" films, or then again, don't), and they've tried transplanting us into their alien world ("Predators"). None of it has worked. This film, other than featuring some Predator monsters (and those dogs...oy...), has no tangible connection of spirit or attitude with the original film. In fact, until about the last 30 minutes, "The Predator" never feels like a Predator film, and that's a problem.
At this point, it's time to put the Predator franchise out to pasture. It's a missed opportunity, and the real "hunt" that we've been witnessing has not been between predator and prey, it's been the studio's hunt to find purpose, relevancy and life in a franchise that clearly is a long-dead carcass.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Horror. Run Time: 1 hour 47 minutes.
Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen.
Co-Written and Directed by Shane Black ("The Nice Guys," "Iron Man 3," "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang").
It may not be the most talked-about political documentary hitting theaters this month (that belongs to Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 11/9, due in theaters Sept. 21), but "American Chaos" may very well be the most essential and necessary documentary film that you need to see this year.
The premise is simple enough: It's an attempted look and examination inside the mind of a Trump voter, made by a staunch Democratic filmmaker, as he tries to make sense of the 2016 elections. James D. Stern tells us that he is a political junkie, and an avid supporter of Barack Obama, as well as his so-called predecessor, Hillary Clinton. In the run-up to the 2016 election that led to the seemingly implausible election of Donald J. Trump, Stern travels the country talking with average Americans who just so happen to be die-hard Trump supporters. A Michael Moore documentary - or any other for that matter - would look to ridicule and expose its subjects as clueless rubes, individuals who clearly are either ignorant, racist, homophobic or just plain stupid. But Stern takes an impressively empathetic angle, putting what he hears in context for us but never dismissing what they truly believe in. He is not out for humiliation, rather, he is legitimately searching for understanding.
His raw curiosity to make sense of what the majority of American voters see as inexcusable, is so tremendously refreshing to watch..."American Chaos" strikes at the very spirit of what documentary film once was, and perhaps should be in today's world. The genre of documentary film has become what can be described as "argumentative film," where typically a movie sets out to say or prove a preconceived idea or message to its audience. Even the Mr. Rogers documentary, or the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary, started with a distinct purpose: That Mr. Rogers was an unbelievably good person, or that RBG was and is one bad-ass mutha. What documentaries of the past used to be, were films that started out with a notion or a concept, but there was always an element of discovery. The real story may not have been the same at the end of the process than what it was at the beginning. Stern does not set out with any preconceived judgments as to why millions of Americans support Trump, and as he uncovers, some of the reasons are much more complex than we on the moral high-ground might at first think.
Make no mistake, "American Chaos" is at times infuriating, frustrating and difficult to watch. It is heart-breaking to watch Stern come to the realization that Trump is going to win the election, despite planting seeds publicly that the whole election process was rigged well before any votes were cast. There are definitely racists, bigots and ignorance abound, and they all happen to exist in the Republican Party in this film. But Stern hits on so much more, an exposed nerve of our country that has been ignored for too long. But watching an American like Stern try to walk a few miles in the shoes of his adversaries is required viewing for ALL Americans, on both sides of the aisle. His approach to the subject is both respectful and courageous.
You could leave thinking Stern should use the slogan "Make Documentaries Great Again," because he really has created a political documentary that just feels different in this polarized society we live in, and it's a throw-back to a more inquisitive film style. Documentaries, of course, have always been great, as has the country in which Stern so desperately wants to make sense of, giving its recent chaos.
Genre: Documentary. Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
Directed by James D. Stern ("Every Little Step," "The Year of the Yao," "All the Rage").
"White Boy Rick"
"White Boy Rick" is the real-life story of Richard Wershe Jr, known as "White Boy Rick," who at 14, was the youngest FBI informant ever back in 1980s Detroit. He managed to play both sides, helping the feds while at the same time establishing himself as a major drug kingpin...at least, according to this re-telling (the actual facts and authenticity of the events in the film have been challenged by several who lived it).
Wershe is played by first-time actor Richie Merritt, who holds his own against major players like Matthew McConaughey (who plays his hustler-of-a-father), Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Bel Powley. While shot mainly in Cleveland for some reason, the depictions of 1980s Detroit seems authentic enough, and Merritt's status as an unknown does help him feel more authentic in the role.
The film itself though, doesn't quite rise up to become anything too impactful. It is mainly a father-son story, but it's a pressure-cooker that has a few leaks, because it never really climaxes into anything all that satisfying for the audience. McConaughey is strong as always though, and there's enough to like here, especially the gritty-street vibe created by Yann Demange's direction.
Is this the real story of "White Boy Rick," or does this story just feed the legend? Who knows...it's all part of the myth that makes this man one of the more intriguing film subjects of the year.
Genre: Crime, Drama. Run Time: 1 hour 50 minutes.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Bel Powley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, RJ Cyler, Brian Tyree Henry.
Directed by Yann Demange ("'71,").
"A Simple Favor"
This movie was not reviewed and opens in wide-release this weekend.
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama. Run Time: 1 hour 57 minutes.
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding.
Directed by Paul Feig ("Spy," "The Heat," "Bridesmaids").
"We the Animals"
This movie was not reviewed and opens in limited-release this weekend.
All of these movies open Friday, Sept. 14th, 2018. Check here for show times.
Movies opening next week include: "The House with a Clock on its Walls," "Fahrenheit 11/9."