Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children won last weekend’s box office, with $28.5 million. This weekend sees two biggish releases, and is going up late, so let’s dive in.
The Birth of a Nation is this weekend’s most controversial release, and not because it reference’s D.W. Griffith’s abhorrent 1915 film of the same name, but because writer, director, producer, and star Nate Parker was accused and acquitted of rape in 1999. (The woman has since died.) The film was lauded at Sundance, and reviews are mixed (even from only one source!) The film tells the story of Nat Turner, an enslaved man who led a rebellion in Virginia in 1831. Though the act of uprising was successful, the men were found and executed, and because Turner was himself a preacher, Virginia law subsequently required that all services be overseen by white clergy. That was veiled, I’ll be obvious: This won’t end well.
The Great Gilly Hopkins is maybe as far as you can get from The Birth of a Nation, as it is the adaptation of the beloved children’s novel by Katherine Paterson. Sophie Nélisse is Gilly, with Glenn Close, Octavia Spencer, Julia Stiles, and Kathy Bates filling in for the grownups.
Phantasm: Ravager is the fifth and final installment of the Phantasm horror series, which began in 1979. Don Coscarelli, who directed the previous films, is a co-writer; David Hartman directs.
The Greasy Strangler is a horror comedy, but unlike previous clown-ravaged “horror comedies” listed in previous columns, appears to actually contain dark humor. An awkwardish man’s horrible father is a serial strangler in a movie The New York Times declared the “weirdest ever.” See, you can enjoy a high brow film this weekend that’s not about slavery.
Mirzya is an Indian Hindi film exploring star-crossed love in both the real world and a fantasy world.
Friend Request is yet another film about students suffering the hauntings of their recently dead peers. Somehow this includes a protagonists with only 800 friends.
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life is finally out. (As an astute YouTube trailer watcher, I can say it’s been playing for far too long.) Adapted from James Patterson’s Middle School series, it stars Lauren Graham, Rob Riggle, Retta, and Griffin Gluck. Somehow Andy Daly is the mean (beleaguered) principal. (Man, you know you’re old when you feel bad for a middle school vice principal.)
Voyage of Time is a Terrence Malick documentary and is “an examination of the birth and death of the known universe.” Brad Pitt narrates.
The Girl on the Train is this weekend’s other big release, adapted from the Paul Hawkins thriller. Tate Taylor directs, and Emily Blunt stars, in Gone Girl meets Gaslight.
Newtown is a documentary about the grief in Newtown, Connecticut, following the horrific 2012 shooting.
Blue Jay is an opportunity to see Sarah Paulson without the burden of colonial ghosts. Paulson and Mark Duplass (who also wrote the film) are high school sweethearts who reconnect in their hometown.
13th is a documentary from Ava DuVernay about the prison system and mass incarceration. (A reminder that Kalief Browder has since died.) The film is distributed by Netflix, so you can see it online if you can’t make it to the IFC Center.
Occasionally films are released and missed during the production of this column. Other movies that are out now, and worth a look (and your dollars) are…:
London Town tells the fictional story of a young man whose life is changed when his estranged mother introduces him to the Clash. Jonathan Rhys Myers portrays my hero Joe Strummer.
Being 17 is a French coming-of-age drama about a young man who is forced to get along with his foe when the two find themselves under the same roof.
Under the Shadow is Iranian-born Babak Anvari directs this thriller, in which a woman and her daughter are maybe haunted by a djin while trying to survive Tehran during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s. It is Britain’s submission for Best Foreign Film in the Oscar race, though the film is an international production between Qatar, Jordan, and the United Kingdom.