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While once seen as a box office dead zone, November has become a big blockbuster season for the movie industry in the last decade or so, and it's because of big titles like the ones coming out this week that the reputation will continue. This Friday we get a return to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, an awkward family comedy, and an all-female heist flick. Get ready for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Instant Family and Widows.
Just remember, I'm not reviewing these movies, but rather predicting where they'll end up on the Tomatometer. Let's take a look at This Rotten Week has to offer.
When we last left Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), he'd given New York City a little dose of Fantastic Beast magic, and helped get Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) sent away to Wizard prison. But now in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald we see the titular villain escape and start gathering an army. It's a blast from the Harry Potter-world past, with a young Dumbledore making an appearance (played by Jude Law) and the story of how the second-most dangerous wizard of all-time made his way up the power chain.
Director David Yates has had a lot of control over the Harry Potter Universe, having helmed the last five features in the franchise with resounding critical success. Going in reverse chronological order, he's directed:
Sadly, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald looks like it may be the first real critical misstep for the franchise. Early reviews are trending the wrong way, with critics with the Tomatometer sitting at 57% through 42 reviews. The negative reviews tend to revolve around a theme of "disconnected plot lines." It's a shame, because this universe is still so fertile with stories, but this one might be a miss.
Oof, does Instant Family look cringe-worthy. I get the premise: family adopts a bunch of foster kids and hilarity ensues. However, the trailers don't make it look good at all, and I wonder about the treatment of the subject matter. I suspect critics see it much the same way, and I'd be shocked if it finished much higher than the basement.
Director Sean Anders doesn't provide much in the way of critical confidence. He worked with Mark Wahlberg on Daddy's Home 1 and 2 (34% and 19%) while also helming That's My Boy (20%) and Horrible Bosses 2 (34%). The dude has been critically panned every step of the way, and I don't suspect this latest will be any different. Between canned jokes, a faulty premise and corny writing, there's very little reason to suspect it finishes anywhere close to fresh.
When a group of thieves are gunned down by cops during a botched heist, their wives are left to pay back the money that was destroyed in take-down. It sounds like it could be a slapstick comedy, but Widows is anything but. Directed by Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave - 95%), the film is built with a brilliant ensemble of talented actresses, and notably has Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) credited as one of the screenwriters.
Critics are coming in with overwhelmingly positive reviews, and it looks like Widows might be in the discussion as we get closer to Oscar time. They use words like "hard-hitting" and "gritty," and praise the performances of the leads while also recognizing the writing is tight all around. I don't suspect the current score moves much over the course of the week, and we will see this as one of the best-rated movies of the year.
Overall, I only went one for three last week, though the two misses were awfully close. Overlord (Predicted: 87% Actual: 81%) fell within 10%, as critics loved the tone of the flick. It's rare to get the new twist on the World War II movie, but they pulled it off with this one about a group of stranded soldiers stumbling upon a Nazi-lab horror show.
Meanwhile, The Grinch (Predicted: 67% Actual: 55%) just missed. Most critics agreed with my assessment that this was a safe and vanilla retelling of the original, made to mostly bring the story up to date after the Jim Carrey live-action weirdness. But it still just wasn't a great film, and that kept the score closer to the middle and as "Rotten" instead of "Fresh."
And finally, The Girl In The Spider's Web (Predicted: 55% Actual: 43%) came up Rotten. This franchise has had such a weird path, with this one based on a book outside the original Millennium Trilogy, and this film had a hard time connecting. It was hard to imagine the flick having much critical success from the get-go - I just went a little on the wrong side of the dial.