47 Meters Down

In the genre of mindnumbing stupidfun (yes, that’s a genre), 47 METERS DOWN achieves new depths—and that’s a good thing. Grab some popcorn, watch sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore, mom Rebecca from TV’s This Is Us) and Kate (Claire Holt) enter the shark cage in great white–infested waters, and know that everything that could possibly go wrong, will. Enjoy. —YSM

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It Comes at Night

In a plague-ravaged world, survivors may have as much to fear from each other as from the plague itself. This setup, familiar to any fan of TV’s The Walking Dead, gets a stylish, taut, and grimly illuminated treatment in IT COMES AT NIGHT. Sadly, for all that style, the movie proves as mis-messaged as its title. (There is no “it” nor any other supernatural element, by day or night.) Teenaged Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and his mom and dad (Carmen Ejogo and Joel Edgerton) are hiding in rural isolation when they cross paths with Will (Christopher Abbott), Kim (Riley Keogh), and their young son; but by the time that meeting plays out, you may be no wiser as to what writer-director Trey Edward Shults was trying to say. At least he said it with panache. —YSM

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The Mummy (2017)

On the surface, THE MUMMY beckons with the thrills a summer blockbuster requires. But it’s just surface; unwrap the gauzy exterior and one finds a whole lot of predictability and cliché stupidity. This time, the untombed mummy, female (Sofia Boutella), picks Tom Cruise as her intended, so right there you know that discerning choices won’t overwhelm this film. Add hapless sidekick (Jake Johnson, reprising his goofball shtick from TV’s New Girl where it’s already grown stale) in a manner completely derivative of An American Werewolf in London; a supposed-to-be-feisty archaeologist/love interest/blonde placeholder (Annabelle Wallis); and Russell Crowe for no other reason than Universal Studios plans to go all Marvel and make a “Dark Universe” of interlocking horror franchises. It will leave you pining for the throwback charm of the predecessor Mummy (1999) and the charisma of its stars, Rachel Weisz and Brendan Fraser. —YSM

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Wonder Woman

DC Comics finally gets one right. This origin story for WONDER WOMAN (earnest and beautiful Gal Gadot) avoids the mishmash mess of so many of its superhero brethren films by telling the straight-ahead tale of when Princess Diana of Paradise Island met dashing pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) during WWI, setting her on the path to becoming a legend. True, that choice raises some difficult questions (Why was she idle during WWII and the Holocaust?) and highlights the fundamental contradiction between the film’s welcome anti-war message (true to the vision of Wonder Woman’s creator, William “Charles Moulton” Marston) while it revels in the war-like ways of the Amazons…but, heck, let them revel! The woman-warrior action sequences are dazzling, and for onceunlike in most of the recent Superman and Batman moviesthere’s a warm mix of humor and heart to back up the ass-kicking. Which, for a DC property, is truly a wonder. YSM

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Alien: Covenant

A spacecraft with a sleeping crew drawn off course by a mysterious transmission. Said crew who unwittingly unleashes a nigh unstoppable critter that gets loose and hunts them down one by one. Your android (excellent and eye-pleasing Michael Fassbender) who may or may not be your friend. If recapitulation is your thing—as it seems to be for director Ridley Scott—ALIEN: COVENANT will sound familiar notes (most happily the haunting theme music composed by the late Jerry Goldsmith, heard here perhaps more than in the original film, if in fragments and lesser variations). They even swapped in good-ole-boy naming conventions (Cpt. Dallas of ALIEN moves slightly east, in the form of some cowboy-hat-wearing cliche called Tennessee). The few innovations to be found in this film split the difference between the fascinating (a twist on the evil monster) and the ridiculous (the crisis-mismanaging incompetence and poor choices of a crew that supposedly has trained for months). Will our plucky heroine (Katherine Waterston in the Ripley-like role) triumph against the baddie? By the time H.R. Giger’s signature creation gets going, which was terrifyingly new in ALIEN and terrifyingly action-packed in ALIENS, here the bloody road to the answer feels rote. With so little to add, ALIEN: COVENANT won’t disappoint, but neither will it surprise, right to the bitter end. —YSM

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Dead Awake

Independent horror flick DEAD AWAKE latches on to a promising if obvious premise: sleep paralysis as an encounter with supernatural menace. And the leads, a faux “Famke Janssen” (Jocelin Donahue) and stockier “Justin Theroux” (Jesse Bradford), turn in convincing enough performances even without the skills of their lookalikes. (Never mind Jesse Borrego as the Enigmatic Stranger Who Alone Knows What’s Really Going On; his wild-eyed shenanigans nearly push the whole thing into camp.) But the key to horror, regardless of budget, is pacing and panache; the creeps must build, not be given outright, and need to come in unexpected, stylish ways. DEAD AWAKE’s chills get repetitive quickly and sag in the middle; despite the film’s promise, you may find yourself not so awake. —YSM

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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Definitely not for Arthurian purists. But if you can handle wild departures from the canon and a boatload of anachronisms, KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD presents an energetic update of the enduring tale. This Arthur (hard-bodied Charlie Hunnam, whom we will hopefully see more of–literally and figuratively–in future films) starts as a brothel-raised London street rat, more because London tough-guy hoodlums are director Guy Ritchie’s go-to than anything else. Meanwhile in Camelot, the usurper of England’s throne (icy-eyed Jude Law, putting as much meat on the role’s bones as the modest script allows) worries that the true king is out there, and schemes for his demise. You can guess the rest from there, as an enigmatic witch (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) and guardian of the old order (Djimon Hounsou) are drawn into the fray. What’s less expected is how well Ritchie’s trademark kinetic, brash-and-fast-talking film style works in mashup with quasi-medieval tropes. The result isn’t deep, but it’s quick-footed and entertaining. Special nod to Daniel Pemberton for a tone-setting, percussive score that fit perfectly. –YSM

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Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2

After the surprise success of the first GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXYa movie featuring D-list Marvel Comics characters from the extraterrestrial regions of its superhero universecan VOL. 2 recapture the lightspeed mix of spaced-out action and jokey fun, with just enough heart to keep it from floating away into nothingness? The answer is largely yes, despite some forced moments along the way. Ace assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), meaty Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), talking raccoon with a bad attitude Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (still sprouting, and voiced by Vin Diesel, though you’d never know it) return as the oddball aliens on the run with Earth-born Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) as he works out some abandonment issues. Expect interstellar regimes, revelations, cameos, nods that only us longtime Marvelites will get, several end credit postscripts, and of course a prominent soundtrack of retro hits. It all weaves together well for easy popcorn entertainment. YSM

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The Circle

A cautionary tale about the creeping loss of privacy in the digital age, THE CIRCLE works with juicy material but only squeezes a little bit out of it. Don’t blame the cast: Emma Watson ably captures the starry-eyed recruit to the Circle, an Apple/Google-like corporation that wants to watch and worm its way into everything. (She sheds her Harry Potter Hermione for a nearly flawless American accent…though why not just hire an American actress is the real mystery.) Tom Hanks as the Steve Jobs knockoff hits the right mix of idealism and man-of-the-people smarminess, and John Boyega (yet another Brit passing as a Yank) fits the rueful reclusive genius bill. But as the story careens towards a shattering of lives and social norms, it simply isn’t credible that such presumably smart people couldn’t anticipate the obvious pitfalls of their technological progress–problems any thoughtful audience can see coming from miles away. That and the fact that developments in the real world have in some ways outstripped the movie leave THE CIRCLE feeling hollowed out. As one woman remarked as she left the theater: “That’s already here.” –YSM

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Sleight

SLEIGHT (take away the “e”, for lack of enjoyment) is the amount of entertainment value you’ll get out of this tale of a Los Angeles black teen (Jacob Latimore) with a minor superpower. Down and out on his luck, Bo uses his penchant for magic tricks—he literally has something up his sleeve—to get the girl (Seychelle Gabriel) and try to turn things around when he runs afoul of a local drug boss. Give SLEIGHT points for earnestness and for trying to blend urban grit with superhero tropes to break out of the spandex straitjacket; but that can’t possibly compensate for the lackluster acting, cliche characters, and unbelievable things writer-director J.D. Dillard has them do. It’s not the superpower that strains credulity; it’s the screenplay. —YSM

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About Your Sacrificial Moviegoer

We love to sit in the dark with a big tub of popcorn amid a roomful of strangers. Reports on what we witness there come in two varieties: Bullet Reviews quickly and concisely convey our take on a film, always in spoiler-free fashion; Trailer Trash reveals Your Sacrificial Moviegoer's best prediction on whether an upcoming movie is worth seeing, based solely on the trailer (the short "previews" before the feature presentation).

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