What an interesting mix of movies to open over one weekend! And we kind of mean that in the same way that the Chinese proverb says, “May you live in interesting times.” But hey, we love it when a director or a lead takes a risk, diverts from the established industry “script”—or flips it entirely, and creates a refreshing riff on more familiar fare. For that reason, we’re (mostly) really feeling these releases! From slapstick spy comedies to gritty YA action thrillers, here’s what’s brand new at the box office:
Ewan McGregor is no Robin Williams, and Christopher Robin is no Hook. If anything, it’s more like Where the Wild Things Are, but that’s neither here nor there. When the first teaser for this warm-and-fuzzy cash-grab dropped back in March, we were, to put it mildly, bewildered and skeptical. Two more trailers and a sneak peek later, Pooh and friends — who, next to their illustrated and cartoon counterparts, all look like the “you” in a “you vs. the guy she told you not to worry about” meme — are actually starting to win us over. At the same time, McGregor is starting to feel like he’s phoning in the straight man routine, and it’s really killing our vibe. As far as we can tell, the greatest conflict in this movie seems to be, “Dad can’t come to the cottage this weekend.” High stakes! Forgive us this day our daily cynicism, but it’s a little shocking that something is co-written by “golden smartass” Alex Ross Perry and directed by the guy who made Monster’s Ball and Stranger than Fiction could be so…milquetoast. Is it us? Is our cynicism the problem, and not this movie? That seems likely. If Christopher Robin is good enough that we end up eating crow, well, we’ll let you know.
Never Goin’ Back
Full disclosure: This trailer seriously misrepresents the number of human body fluids, sexual organs, and the sheer quantity of jokes at their expense that are contained in this movie’s ninety-minute runtime! But make no mistake, Never Goin’ Back is like Ghost World’s exuberant edgelord cousin, featuring two disaffected teen girls who hate just about everyone except each other and their half-baked, abject, and defiant attempts to wring out a few droplets of joy from the dehumanizing grind of dead-end, working-class existence. These are no suburban rich kids wilding out before packing up for college — no, Angela (Maia Mitchell) and Jessie (Camila Morrone) are rude, crude, and lewd, and they don’t give a single solitary HECK about keeping up appearances. Never Goin’ Back is also bolstered by the presence of Saturday Night Live’s Kyle Mooney, whose brand of comedy lovingly skewers a very specific kind of suburban masculinity. But here’s the big question: Did we actually like this movie, or did we not get its sense of “humor”? You’ll just have to read our review to find out.
The Darkest Minds
If you’re into YA-facing dystopian cinema (The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner), then this is the movie for you to see this weekend. It’s got all the most well-loved hallmarks of the genre on lock: kids with powers who get hunted, sorted, and detained, fascist adults who just don’t understand, and a brewing revolution, plus up-and-comer Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue in The Hunger Games and is now stepping into the lead for what will likely, given that this is based on a book series, become a franchise. Stenberg will also appear in The Hate U Give, a very different kind of “youth in revolt” movie, later this year. The Darkest Minds is directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who has previously only done light-hearted kids’ fare, and with Kung Fu Panda 2 became the first woman to solo direct an animated feature from a major studio. That’s right. The first. In 2011. Breathtaking revelations about Hollywood’s gender dynamics aside, the critical and commercial success of Kung Fu Panda 2 proves that Nelson has the chops, and then some, to take on a live-action project. The biggest difference between The Darkest Minds and its ilk is mainly that the future in which it is set is much, much closer at hand, possibly less than a decade in the future, even! That makes it much more of a believable, alternate reality than simply a convenient excuse for some really dope world-building and costuming, which means that maybe, just maybe, its message will feel a little more resonant and immediate.
The Spy Who Dumped Me
The Spy Who Dumped Me joins Date Night and Keeping Up With the Joneses (and oh heck, Game Night) as part of an emerging canon of action-comedy featuring hapless civilians getting themselves way, way over their heads in the world of espionage. The difference is, while these movies focus mostly on couples, The Spy Who Dumped Me is about a couple of gal pals. One of the pair is Kate McKinnon, whose goofy charm and impeccable comedic timing have officially made her the capybara of Hollywood: She can fit in — nay, steal the show — anywhere. We’d pay real dollars to watch her write a grocery list! McKinnon’s roommate and gal pal, Mila Kunis, whose ex-boyfriend turns out to be CIA, isn’t afraid to sacrifice herself on the altar of dignity to get a laugh — always a great quality in a movie star. Together, they have the potential to reach the icon status of duos like Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker or, perhaps more aptly, Cheech and Chong. And yes, this isn’t quite the “female 007” everyone’s been clamoring for, but it’s a start. Oh, and we heard the body count is higher than Mission Impossible: Fallout if that’s the kind of thing you care about.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
If But I’m a Cheerleader wasn’t overspilling with over-the-top campiness, then it might look a lot like this. Already one of Fandor’s favorite movies of 2018 (so far), The Miseducation of Cameron Post precedes another movie about gay conversion therapy (a practice still legal in thirty-six U.S. states), Boy Erased, that will be released later this year. So why is this the time for movies to tackle this subject? We have a few guesses, and one of them rhymes with “spiked fence.” Star Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, 30 Rock) is being hailed for giving the performance of her young career. And she joins relative newcomers Forrest Goodluck and Sasha Lane for a coming-of-age tale that has already won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year. She and director Desiree Akhavan, who is known for her queer rom-com Appropriate Behavior, apparently interviewed many gay conversion survivors in the making of this movie — all of whom were under thirty. According to an interview with Moretz for IndieWire, “Some of the stuff [we were told by survivors] we couldn’t even put in because it would have felt implausible.” Do keep that sobering anecdote in mind while watching, won’t you?