Several notable new films are set to hit theaters this week, from a highly anticipated action comedy to a critically acclaimed biographical drama. Can’t decide which option to check out first? Here are our staff’s picks for the top three flicks to check out this weekend.
1. Love & Mercy
Directed by Bill Pohlad, the biographical drama follows a parallel narrative covering two specific time periods of the life of Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson. It starts in the late 1960s and follows Wilson (played by Paul Dano) as he stops touring, produces “Pet Sounds” and begins to lose his sanity. By the 1980s, an elder Wilson (John Cusack, under the sway of a controlling therapist, finds a savior in Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks).
The movie, which derives its title from the 1988 song by Wilson, has been a festival darling, getting widely lauded by critics at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival and this year’s South by Southwest. It currently holds an 88% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with reviewers calling the biopic “deeply satisfying,” “emotionally acute,” and “extraordinarily sensitive to the amorphous nature of Wilson’s life and art.”
Dano has earned particular praise for individual portrayal of a tortured but hopeful musical genius. “Dano lets it bleed, giving a performance awards were invented for. You can’t take your eyes off him,” Rolling Stone wrote of his performance. Banks has also been commended for bringing warmth and humor to the film.
Melissa McCarthy is back on the big screen, this time as CIA analyst Susan Cooper, who has spent her entire career desk-bound and helping dashing agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law), despite having solid field training. However, when Bradley is assassinated by a Bulgarian arms dealer, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), Susan convinces her bosses to let her take on her first undercover assignment in order to capture Boyanov and help avenge Bradley. The movie reunites McCarthy with Bridesmaids director Paul Feig.
The film has earned overwhelmingly positive reviews, currently holding a 94% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics have labeled Spy one of McCarthy’s best blockbuster comedies yet, praising Feig for giving the funny actress a vehicle that allows to embrace the full range of her comedic capabilities. As Variety described, “Melissa McCarthy gets the funniest, most versatile and sustained comic showcase of her movie career in this deliriously entertaining action-comedy.” Brynes, who is quickly becoming one of comedy’s secret weapons, has also earned critical praise for the portrayal of her cruelly hilarious character and sharp chemistry with McCarthy.
3. Charlie’s Country
Directed by Rolf de Heer, the Australian drama film stars David Gulpilil as Charlie, a warrior past his prime who lives in a remote Aboriginal community in the northern part of the country. As the government increases its stranglehold over the community’s traditional way of life, Charlie finds himself caught between two cultures. After his gun and newly crafted spear are taken away, he finally becomes fed up and decides to head into the wild on his own, to live the old way. What he hasn’t considered is where he might end up or how much life has changed since the old days.
The film, which screened at both the Cannes and Toronto International Film Festivals last year, has earned critical acclaim, with a 92% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Aside from it’s unique use of a Steadicam to follow Charlie’s character as he walks quickly through his terrain, critics have praised the film for its delicate and powerful portrayal of cultural displacement and one man’s determination to never lose himself. Gulpilil, who appears in pretty much every scene and also co-wrote the movie, has earned individual commendation for his performance. “It’s a testament to what de Heer and Gulpilil have achieved here — with simplicity and infinite nuance — that through all the highs and devastating lows…the character’s identity remains etched into every aspect of the performance,” The Hollywood Reporter wrote of the film. If you’re looking to take a break from summer blockbusters and check out a more intricate and layered drama, this is the film for you.