The Critics Choice Awards are on Sunday, but there are more new movies hitting theaters this weekend! The 2019 box office has been dominated by "Aquaman" thus far, will any new films opening today challenge the king? Short answer: No.
Here are the new reviews of films opening Friday, Jan. 11, 2019:
"Ben is Back"
"Ben is Back" is not the first movie to deal with drug addiction...in fact, it is so similar to 2018's "Beautiful Boy" that this movie almost acts as a supplement, a tale focusing on a different facet of the deadly epidemic. And while "Ben is Back" is missing the same emotional impact that "Beautiful Boy" had, it still has merit as a film showing the hardships that a parent endures when they watch, helplessly, as their child struggles with demons.
Julia Roberts is the mother in this one, and Lucas Hedges is Ben, a young man who returns home from rehab perhaps a bit too early. In "Beautiful Boy," the father, Steve Carell, was shown at a point in his son's addiction where he had already gone through the hurt and suffering...he had tried to save his son for too long and was now way past the "tough love" phase. He understood what his son was struggling with and fought only to control the things he could, and had developed an awareness and acceptance for the things he could not. In "Ben is Back," Julia Roberts might one day get to that point, but she is not there yet. Ben's mom is over-bearing, over-protective, and still at a point where she feels like she can truly help her son (spoiler alert: Only Ben can help Ben).
Because of this, "Ben is Back" is worth watching maybe after you've seen "Beautiful Boy," or maybe beforehand. And there's a reason for the constant comparisons: They really feel like the same story, viewed at different points along the way. On its own "Ben is Back" is a bit melodramatic and at times a bit far-fetched, but solid performances from Hedges and Roberts ground this story, tackling subject matter that needs to be handled just right. Directed by Peter Hedges (Lucas's father), he doesn't quite juggle it all, but it's effective enough.
Genre: Drama. Run Time: 1 hour 43 minutes.
Starring: Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, Courtney B. Vance.
Written and Directed by Peter Hedges ("The Odd Life of Timothy Green," "Dan in Real Life," "Pieces of April").
Kevin Hart has been in the news a lot lately, but for all the wrong reasons. The controversy surrounding his on-and-off gig as Oscar Host has taken the spotlight off of the fact that actually, he's been making the rounds to promote his first real dramatic film role. In "The Upside", which is based on a true story, he plays Dell, a deadbeat dad with a criminal record, who happens upon a new job taking care of the quadriplegic, super-wealthy author Phillip (Bryan Cranston). Dell learns a lot about how to live from a guy who can barely move, and Phillip learns to loosen up a bit, figuratively speaking. Nicole Kidman also stars in a supporting role, which we're unaccustomed to seeing her in. It suits her. She plays the stuffy executive to Phillip, in charge of his general well-being.
Those coming into the theater looking for a Kevin Hart comedy are going to be disappointed, but that's not to say there aren't a few laughs peppered in. And while Hart is effective in his first drama, the role doesn't require a lot of range. He's helped out immensely by Cranston and Kidman, both playing outside of their comfort zones and nailing it.
Something is just...missing from "The Upside" though. Hart and Cranston don't quite create the chemistry necessary to pull off such a story, and the script doesn't supply them with any real depth. It becomes quite predictable, quite "paint-by-numbers," and some characters and ideas are just not very well-developed (a drug-dealer, for example, is introduced as a threat to Hart's son but the thread goes nowhere, or flashbacks involving Cranston's wife just feel forced and jumbled).
There are positives in "The Upside," but not enough to outweigh the negatives. For Hart though, this could be a good transition role from comedies to some more heavy stuff: He's now proven he doesn't always have to have all the attention on him in a scene. His career - controversies and all - still has some serious upside.
Genre: Comedy, Drama. Run Time: 2 hours 5 minutes.
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, Julianna Margulies, Tate Donovan.
Directed by Neil Burger ("Divergent," "Limitless," "The Illusionist").
This movie was not screened for critics but opens this weekend in limited-release.
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Sci-Fi. Run Time: 1 hour 47 minutes.
Starring: Alice Eve, Keanu Reeves, Emily Alyn Lind, Thomas Middleditch, John Ortiz.
Directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff ("Traitor," "Hollywood Palms").
All of these movies open Friday, Jan. 11th, 2019. Check here for show times.
Movies opening next weekend include: "Glass," "Destroyer."
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