It can be tough trying to pick and choose the right movie every weekend. But that’s where we come in, delivering our staff-chosen list of the best movies straight to you. We’re still smack dab in the middle of blockbuster season, and there are plenty of options out there for anyone looking to spend their weekend at their local movie theater. This week, we have the latest superhero release, a CGI-laden sequel to a classic story, and suspenseful art-house thriller. So without further ado, here are our picks for the weekend’s best new releases.
1. X-Men: Apocalypse
20th Century Fox’s X-Men holds the distinct honor of being Hollywood’s longest-running superhero franchise, with a story that’s spanned over a decade-and-a-half. The latest chapter puts the team up against their biggest threat yet. Apocalypse, rumored to be the world’s first mutant, has designs of bringing the Earth crumbling to the ground, enlisting the help of Magneto, Psylocke, Storm, and Angel to aid him in his conquest. The younger versions of some familiar faces go up against him, with Mystique, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Beast, and Jean Grey making up this iteration of the X-Men.
Thematically, Apocalypse does have its fair share of flaws. An otherwise incredible actor in Oscar Isaac is buried beneath layers of makeup and CGI, while the story never quite hits home the way director Bryan Singer likely hoped it would. That all being said, a middling X-Men movie is still head and shoulders above most of the other stuff releasing in the action genre right now. The first X-Men from 2000 and then X2 are both paragons of the essential superhero movie, while X-Men: The Last Stand and Origins represent the bottom rung. Fortunately, Apocalypse falls somewhere in the middle of that scale, making it more than worth your time this weekend.
2. Alice Through the Looking Glass
If you’re wondering why a critically disappointing movie like Alice in Wonderland has a sequel, you need look no further than the $1.025 billion it hauled in at the box office worldwide when it released in 2010. Now six years later, Through the Looking Glass returns Alice (Mia Wasikowska) to Wonderland to find it in peril. The official synopsis says something about Alice traveling back in time to save the Mad Hatter, while the trailer hints at the physical manifestation of time itself as the primary villain.
In terms of its reception, Through the Looking Glass looks to be about on par with its predecessor, checking in at around 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critical consensus notes that while its “visually impressive,” all the CGI in the world isn’t enough to make up for an “underwhelming story that fails to live up to its classic characters.” You could also do far worse this weekend though, especially if you’re looking for a generally lighthearted movie with stunning special effects. Odds are that the foreign box office will once again carry this franchise far enough for another sequel, so why not enjoy the ride while it lasts?
3. The Ones Below
The thriller genre can frequently be a hit or miss sort of deal. A truly great suspense movie evokes extreme emotion from an audience, keeping them on the edge of their seats from the opening scene, to the second the credits role. Miss the mark though and it feels like a wasted 90 minutes of any viewer’s life. The Ones Below falls in the former of those two categories, as a suspense film that completely knocks it out of the park in terms of its characters, building tension, and then tying it all together with a neat bow.
At 64% on Rotten Tomatoes, the general consensus seems to agree on the quality of the film. Dave Calhoun at Time Out dubs it “creepy and ambiguous with a winning line in everyday horror,” and most other critics seem to agree with him for the most part. The predominant negative feelings seem to revolve mainly around the complexity of the story, although you could argue that’s a relative strength of many great thrillers. Either way, The Ones Below is an intriguing take on the crazy neighbor motif, buoyed by a skilled directorial hand, and an A-plus cast of lesser-known names.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest