Film

Must-Watch (and Maybe-Watch) Movies This Week

New releases include “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Cielo,” “Minding the Gap,” and a live-action version of “The Little Mermaid”

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Each week, the Village Voice reviews the dozen or so films that open in theaters both locally and nationwide. Because we understand that you probably won’t read every single one of these reviews (although we think you should give it a try), here’s the definitive guide to what you should watch.

You Should Definitely Watch

MINDING THE GAP

“Though it’s been assembled from all types of footage over many years, Minding the Gap is visually mesmerizing, and the fact that the director belongs to this subculture turns the film’s style into a kind of philosophical stance. Director Bing Liu privileges expressive moments and emotional movements over narrative arcs and clear through lines. The film is filled with lengthy, sensuous skateboarding scenes, which feel meditative, therapeutic; we sense that these kids skated not because it was fun, but because it helped them to survive.” — Bilge Ebiri (full review)

CIELO

“ ‘Cielo’ is Spanish for sky, but it also translates to heaven, and that’s exactly the sort of ambiguity director Alison McAlpine uses to her advantage. She opens with a sort of invocation to the cielo of the Chilean Atacama Desert, and then we meet the people living underneath it. There are travelers, cowboys, miners, and an older couple just going about their lives. Then there are the planet hunters at different observatories, some from Switzerland, others from Spain and Chile. They analyze data, they tinker with their telescopes, they sing songs about the celestial unknown. There’s also a wandering photographer looking for UFOs and a teacher retelling ancestral stories. ‘We are invited to a party in the sky,’ he explains.” — Jordan Hoffman (full review)

Worth Watching

WE THE ANIMALS

“Brawling yet tender, wild yet rigorously controlled, first-time fiction director Jeremiah Zagar’s We the Animals is an impressionistic swirl of a film about masculinity, about abuse, about growing up queer, about chaotic family life, about the jumble of incidents and stirrings through which a child discovers a self. It’s essentially plotless yet dense with incident, even with its share of shocks. Much of its beautiful, sometimes tragic power comes from a sense of stasis.” — Alan Scherstuhl (full review)

THE WIFE

The Wife, scripted by Jane Anderson and adapted from Meg Wolitzer’s novel of the same name, explores the literary cliché of the silent wife behind the star writer from the perspective of the talent behind the talent. This is a portrait of a decades-long partnership coming to a head but also of the American literary community reckoning with what so many know to be true: Women are still not seen as ‘serious’ writers or contenders for major prizes. And men can’t keep their hands off their young students.” — April Wolfe (full review)

The Rest

CRAZY RICH ASIANS: “The most interesting moments in the film are also its most coy. Astrid (Gemma Chan) suffers silently through her husband’s affair with another woman, ignited because her wealth makes him insecure. At the film’s close, she leaves him, donning the earrings she once hid. It speaks to the dismal state of Asian representation that this display is meant to be a moment of triumph and not ridicule. For all its carnival-like antics, Crazy Rich Asians is all too aware of its own spectacle.” — Alana Mohamed (full review)

JULIET, NAKED: “It’s as though I’ve had my High Fidelity fantasy delivered, lo, so many years later: Show me this emotional idiot’s relationship from the woman’s perspective.” — April Wolfe (full review)

THE LITTLE MERMAID: “This live-action reworking of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is devoid of social or political undercurrents and untethered from recognizable reality — precisely the kind of fantasy film that should appease moviegoers critical of how the Marvel universe or the Star Wars series get too close to reality.” — Serena Donadoni (full review)

DOWN A DARK HALL: “Ultimately, Down a Dark Hall falls victim to familiar teen horror tropes: a brooding lead with a heart of gold, predictable jump scares, wincingly bad romantic tension, and obvious villains.” — Tatiana Craine (full review)

MEMOIR OF WAR: “Memoir of War works best when there’s tension between the inner thoughts of Marguerite (Mélanie Thierry) and outside forces that require her to take action.… But the bulk of the 127 minutes involves Marguerite exquisitely suffering in a haze of cigarette smoke, fretting over the fate of Antelme (Emmanuel Bourdieu), whom she worships yet may no longer love.” — Serena Donadoni (full review)

SONGWRITER: “There are occasional glimmers of a real person (wishing to topple Adele, laying down a ‘no Snapchat’ rule at his house, etc.) but rarely is a feature film so bluntly just marketing.” — Jordan Hoffman (full review)

A WHALE OF A TALE: “A Whale of a Tale is a corrective, countering The Cove’s agitprop sensationalism with a measured and nuanced curiosity.” — Devika Girish (full review)

THE RANGER: “These leather-clad teens with anarchy signs painted on their jackets say empty catchphrases like “Fuck the police,” but the film never hints at anything insightful about the tension between civilians and authority figures.” — Kristen Yoonsoo Kim (full review)

DO YOU TRUST THIS COMPUTER?: “The doc never goes much deeper than the information and arguments on AI that can currently be found in the Sunday papers. Notably absent is much discussion about the inputs that fuel our runaway digital machines — above all how the conspicuous lack of diversity in Silicon Valley could make the problem of homogeneity among the power elite that much worse.” — Daphne Howland (full review)

NOTES ON AN APPEARANCE: “Establishing shots are few and far between. A scene might consist almost entirely of a tableau of physical objects; an early one features an overhead perspective on a table, hands motioning in and out of frame — setting down a water glass, pouring coffee — as idle café chatter fills the soundtrack.” — Danny King (full review)

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