What to watch and what to avoid this weekend
THE ONE GOING FOR AN ABSOLUTE STEAL
WIDOWS (MA5+) ****1/2
A magnificent high-concept heist movie adapted from the excellent 1983 British TV miniseries by acclaimed crime author Lynda La Plante.
The story begins with three elite criminals (led by Liam Neeson) coming to an unseemly end when an elaborate robbery goes horribly wrong. The three women they leave behind have little time to grieve. A ruthless Chicago crime lord wants the millions that went missing in that ill-fated job, and gives the ladies a deadline to cough up the dough, or else.
Though completely inexperienced as crooks, Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) have no choice but to toughen up and take the plunge as high-stakes thieves. Director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) and screenwriter Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) are always hustling for greater things from both the sensational source material and an electrifying ensemble cast. The results are there for all to see, and to be utterly knocked out by. Co-stars Colin Farrell, Jacki Weaver, Robert Duvall.
****1/2 (4.5 stars out of 5)
THE ONE THAT PLAYS A GOOD GAME
POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU (PG)
While devotees of the Pokemon gaming experience will largely love what happens here, the non-converted will also walk away relatively non-disenchanted.
The setting is the Blade Runner-esque metropolis of Ryme City, where that cuddly little yellow fellow Pikachu (voiced by Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds) is helping a troubled young man, Tim (Justice Smith), come to grips with the death of his father.
Sporting a little Sherlock Holmes hat, Pikachu is just the right combination of adorable and all-knowing.
The plotting, of course, is of little consequence, but the overall vibe remains much more enjoyable than it should be.
THE ONE THAT THE WHOLE FAMILY WILL LOVE
A well-rounded adaptation of the 2012 bestseller by R.J. Palacio. Though a can't-miss crowd-pleaser, Wonder doesn't settle for leaving us with a lot to like. Instead, it pushes for something more: insights on how we treat each other that can be lingered upon, learned from. Until age 10, Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) has been home-educated by his mother Isabel (Julia Roberts), a result of being in and out of hospitals since birth. Auggie suffers from a congenital disorder that has disfigured his appearance and plays havoc with his health. However, the time has now come for Auggie to get his first extended exposure to the real world by attending a regular school. Needless to say, the other children do not make it easy for this sensitive and intelligent boy. Though Auggie's journey is a seemingly predictable one from exclusion to acceptance, the thoughtful, gently questing route taken along the way backs away from convenient cliches. Co-stars Owen Wilson.
THE ONE WHERE DINKLAGE DOES IT BEST
THE STATION AGENT (M)
A small miracle makes for a big picture with The Station Agent, an offbeat, on-song tale of friendship between a trainspotting recluse (Game of Thrones' legend Peter Dinklage in his greatest performance), an overtalkative hot dog guy (Bobby Cannavale) and a depressed painter (Patricia Clarkson).
What comes to pass between this wildly disparate trio defies description, but not perception. In a rare case of cinematic synchronicity, we get to know them at exactly the same speed as they get to know each other. The more you think about it, the less you can recall this ever happening on screen. If you're sick and tired of movies taking you for a ride, climb aboard for this powerful antidote.
THE ONE WHERE SHAKESPEARE GETS (ANOTHER) MAKEOVER
ROMEO & JULIET (M)
SBS on Demand
Romeo (Douglas Booth) is like a medieval male model, forever adjusting the curtains on his bedroom eyes while his pillowy lips remain in the ready-to-smooch position. Juliet (Hailee Steinfeld) is so bedazzled by this hunky him-bo, she looks as if she isn't sure whether to ask for his undying affection or his autograph. Together, this pair radiate all the romantic heat of a boy-band singer and his fan-club president. If you can look past the mismatched leads, the rest of the movie (filmed on location in the traditional setting of Verona) trundles along quite amicably. Screenwriter Julian Fellowes (the brain behind the Downton Abbey phenomenon) has remixed some of the Bard's dialogue to soup-up the appeal to modern audiences. Co-stars Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis.
THE ONE ALL ABOUT AN ANIMAL ATTRACTION
FRANCES HA (MA15+)
This delightful indie comedy proves whoever said life's what you make it has got it all wrong. Life's what makes you.
Greta Gerwig stars as Frances, a loveable loser who sorely needs two things to go her way: somewhere to live in New York City, and some way to live in New York City. Throughout the film, her hopes of achieving either are amusingly forlorn. Anyone who has spent (or is spending) some (or all) of their adult life with no idea what to do next will love Frances like a long lost sister. Though she invariably cops the worst, Frances always copes the best she can.
THE ONE TO STEER CLEAR OF
HOLMES & WATSON (M)
Foxtel now, Amazon
A very flat, lethargic and largely laughter-free spoof, in which Will Ferrell plays the legendary literary detective Sherlock Holmes is simply incapable of getting any jokey party started. What makes it worse is that the movie squanders everything comedy fans were hoping for from Ferrell's long-awaited reunion with his great compadre John C. Reilly as Watson. Anyone who fell under the magically bizarre spell of the pair's cult classics Talladega Nights and Step Brothers will be sorely disappointed by the weak effort served up here.