We’re now knee-deep into fall, which means the theaters have begun cramming their auditoriums with all manner of typical seasonal fare — i.e. blockbuster wanna-bes that are expected to keep concession stands popping for the remainder of 2018 and award contenders that hope to be remembered when critics and Academy members start handing out congratulatory baubles with all the glad-handing generosity of the Wizard of Oz.
First Man (reviewed here) is a worthy selection for a night out at the cinema, but the best new release is undoubtedly The Hate U Give (***1/2 out of four), a powerful drama (based on Angie Thomas’ novel) about an African-American teenager (an excellent Amandla Stenberg) whose sociopolitical consciousness is awakened after she witnesses her close friend (Algee Smith) fatally shot by a white cop. Bad Times at the El Royale (**1/2) is a throwback to the Tarantino days by writer-director Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods), who fashions a clever if ultimately clunky drama in which a number of disparate sorts (played by Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson and Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo, among others) all find themselves warily circling each other at the titular hotel. The Old Man & the Gun (**1/2) finds Robert Redford easing into retirement with a moderately entertaining story about a man who continues to rob banks well into his senior years. Lastly, Venom (*1/2) is the worst superhero saga to venture down the pike in quite some time, with Tom Hardy aping Jim Carrey in a stridently stupid and eternally annoying film in which reporter Eddie Brock finds himself sharing body space with a wisecracking alien who enjoys biting off people’s heads.