A great idea—what if the adolescent Clark Kent, with all his powers, were a brat instead of a Boy Scout?—gets lamentably perfunctory treatment in BRIGHTBURN. Exploring the emotional angst of mother (Elizabeth Banks) and adopted alien son (Jackson A. Dunn) as things unravel would have elevated this at least to a riveting watch, but the responses of each serve mostly to drive the plot from one gruesome kill to the next, with less depth than one can find in the average comic book. This isn’t a superhero (gone bad) movie; it belongs with Saw, Final Destination, and all the other who-gets-it-when-and-how schlock murderfests, just in superpowered lip gloss. —YSM

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ROCKETMAN, the biopic of the early life of Elton John, parallels the other recent movie of the career of a legendary gay rock star, the Freddie Mercury ode Bohemian Rhapsody: Talented British Boy dreams of breaking out; Boy briefly goes through the heterosexual motions; Boy makes the most of his big break; Boy is seduced by sudden fame, fortune, and an exploitative boytoy; Boy hits rock bottom of a drug-fueled downward spiral; Boy makes a triumphal comeback. Even the best thing about the films—the standout performance of the lead (in this case, Taron Egerton, lamentably but appropriately letting his chiseled body soften into dough)—remains the same. But ROCKETMAN seems a bit less squeamish about gay sex, and a lot more willing to explore the demons (Elton’s dad), angels (his longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, played by a winning Jamie Bell), and unintentionally cancerous growths (his mom, in Bryce Dallas Howard’s most interesting role to date) who shaped the journey. The other difference lies in ROCKETMAN’s indulgence in flights of fantasy, seamlessly woven into the film to fashion a movie-going garment as flashy as any Elton might wear. Those who are already fans in particular will enjoy trying it on.  —YSM

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Avengers: Endgame

The Marvel Cinematic Universe, after a decade of smart, successful movies building to one hell of a cliffhanger (Avengers: Infinity War), gives its valedictory/takes a victory lap. A large part of AVENGERS: ENDGAME is somber—appropriately, considering the preceding events—giving some emotional ballast to the high-energy superheroics of Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downy Jr.), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and a vast, familiar cast pulled into a plot that in many ways is a retrospective of all that has gone before. But once the superheroics inevitably take over, be prepared for some this-is-what-you’ve-been-waiting-for, make-the-fans-scream moments. It’s not perfect, but, oh man, it is worthy. —YSM

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Creed II

Looking for entertainment? Unsurprisingly you’ll find it in CREED II, and therein lies the problem: unsurprisingly.  Because when you’re making ROCKY XXVII—oops, I mean the latest CREED (brooding Michael B. Jordan)—you need to give the audience a new twist, as the first Creed did so refreshingly. Instead, the formula proceeds predictably from boxing triumph to boxing challenge, aging trainer wisdom and remorse (Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky now relegated to that role, but reprising the same mumble-shtick), worried women (girlfriend Tessa Thompson and mom Phylicia Rashad), and most painfully (literally and figuratively) the training montage, full of slow-mo struggle and booming music. At no point is there any question where it’s all going, or what stations of the cross it will hit along the way. Even the story is resurrected (Dolph Lundgren gets dredged from the tomb as the Russian boxer who killed Creed’s dad in the ring, returning with Florian ‘Big Nasty’ Munteanu as his ass-whooping son); your adrenaline may flow as the zombie plot shuffles your way, but it’s never going to sprint to new heights. Enjoy it for what it is, particularly (in Jordan and Munteanu) the ample manflesh. —YSM

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Stylish crime dramas are hard to come by, so WIDOWS should be exalted on that score alone. Yes, director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) wallows in artsy setup for too long, then rushes the climactic big heist; and on rare occasion the high style undercuts the substance of the story, about 4 women abruptly bound together by bereavement when their professional thief husbands die on a job. But as the aftermath forces the women to take desperate measures, they are propelled by the power of Viola Davis in the lead, ably supported by Elizabeth Debicki, in navigating the twists and turns that await them in a duplicitous political/criminal landscape populated by Liam Neeson, reluctant golden boy Colin Farrell, bullying Robert Duvall, frightful mom Jacki Weaver, and a terrifying Daniel Kaluuya. Which makes WIDOWS’ shortcomings easier to overlook. —YSM

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Rather than the charming Harry Potter films whose universe this shares, FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD most strongly resembles its title: bloated and uninspiring. The crimes of this second film in the new series could fill a vault at Gringotts—from the cloying diffidence of Eddie Redmayne (reprising his role as protagonist Newt Scamander) to the antics of cutesy-poo critters; from the relentless overscoring of music to tell you how to feel, to Johnny Depp playing yet another quirky character (villain Grindelwald). Only Jude Law’s middle-aged Dumbledore carries any heft, but therein lies FANTASTIC BEAST’s greatest crime: cowardice. Though heterosexual love and affection abound in multiple scenes, and though writer J.K. Rowling has outright stated that Dumbledore is gay, the past romance between Dumbledore and Grindelwald gets relegated to wink-wink nudge-nudge. Which is the furthest thing from fantastic. —YSM

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Bohemian Rhapsody

If you’re one of those who idolizes Freddie Mercury—and there are apparently many of you!—you’ll undoubtedly find much to love in BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, the biopic of the lead singer of the rock band Queen, who died prematurely of AIDS in 1994. For the rest of us, this tribute to Mercury (Mr. Robot‘s Rami Malek, holding nothing back) from director Bryan Singer (the X-Men movies) passes muster but not much more: It’s a little too tidy in its rise to fame; fall to (gay) sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll; and abbreviated redemption. But at least it doesn’t shy away from Mercury’s gay nature. —YSM

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Boy Erased

Flawless, heartfelt performances delineate BOY ERASED in finely drawn lines, even if the picture emerges slowly and in unsurprising ways. In Arkansas, Jared (Lucas Hedges), the teenage son of a conservative Christian minister (Russell Crowe) and his dutiful wife (Nicole Kidman), finds himself stranded at a camp run by “conversion therapist” Victor Sykes (writer-director Joel Edgerton) when the teen admits to same-sex attractions. Based on a true story, Ederton’s indictment of so-called “ex-gay therapy” is moving in its close personal observations, if just short of compelling. —YSM

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Halloween (2018)

In an era of nonstop pop culture recycling (Mission: Impossible, Lost in Space, Will & Grace, Dynasty, Charmed, Murphy Brown, Roseanne…), John Carpenter’s classic 1978 flick that launched the entire slasher genre had rested in peace for years—after several mostly misbegotten sequels—until now. This new HALLOWEEN isn’t a remake, but rather a sequel that wipes away the others to reboot to factory settings: 40 years have passed for original survivor Laurie (a well-aged Jamie Lee Curtis) and for us, but although now a grandmother, she’s still not over the trauma of her encounter with “Bogeyman” Michael Meyers. Similarly, the film still mines the tropes of teen angst and merciless, mechanical murder, of bodies that won’t stay down and that music that won’t give up. And unlike most of today’s recycling, this HALLOWEEN works well enough on the same terms as its predecessor for a suspenseful, bloody result. —YSM

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The Hate U Give

Timely in its exploration of the issues behind the Black Lives Matter movement, THE HATE U GIVE suffers from being a bit contrived and all over the place. The narration, violating the most fundamental rule of good storytelling—”show, don’t tell”—might have proved fatal. But the winning performance of its young star (Amandla Stenberg) keeps the movie alive, portraying a girl caught between worlds as the pressures of a crisis drawn from the headlines bear down on her. Try it, especially if you’re of the younger generation. —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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