Director Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) directs this uneven yet powerful at times account of the infamous 1967 Algiers Motel incident, part of a race riot that put the city of Detroit under siege. When a man fires off a starter pistol from his hotel window during intense riots, the police and National Guard converge on the Algiers, and a terrible night ensues. It results in three men shot to death, others psychologically and physically tortured, and the sort of judicial rulings in the aftermath that have become all too commonplace. John Boyega plays Dismukes, a security guard who finds himself entangled in the bloody events perpetrated by racist policemen led by Krauss (a legitimately scary Will Pouter). The men and women held captive at the Algiers are played by a strong ensemble cast including Jason Mitchell, Anthony Mackie, Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever, Nathan Davis, Jr. and Algee Smith. The film feels a bit too fictional in spots. In an odd move, Bigelow incorporates real stock footage along with scenes meant to look like stock footage, much in the same way Oliver Stone did in J.F.K., further confusing fact from fiction. She’s going for a documentary feel, but the script sometimes calls for cartoon caricatures with its bad policemen. No doubt, most of the policemen at the hotel that night were a bunch of monsters, but the portrayals of them (beyond Poulter’s) feel too cliché and, in some cases, aren’t well acted. There are enough strong performances to make it worth your while, and while some of the details seem manufactured, this is a true story that needed to be told, even if it seems tainted by fiction at times.
4 Brigsby BearSaturday Night Live’s Kyle Mooney stars as James, a man who loves a kid’s TV show called Brigsby Bear, and loves his parents (Mark Hamill, Jane Adams). As it turns out, he’s also a kidnapping victim, his parents aren’t his real parents, and the TV show was produced by his fake dad for him only. When authorities rescue him, and he’s returned to his real parents (Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins), James understandably has a few emotional and social issues, having never really been outside a small dwelling his entire life. His obsession with the fake TV show continues, and he aspires to continue the story of Brigsby Bear, even if it was a byproduct of his captivity. Director Dave McCary, working from a script co-written by Mooney, delivers a surprisingly heartwarming, funny sleeper with this movie, a film that pays tribute to geek fandom (hey … Mark Hamill!), the importance of family, new friendships, and forgiveness. Mooney is essentially playing one of his spacey SNL characters here, and he fits in perfectly. Greg Kinnear, as a helpful policeman with acting aspirations, lends to a terrific supporting cast. Yes, it is a little weird how James remains somewhat cool-headed and affectionate for his fake captor dad but, hey, it’s Mark Hamill! (There’s a nice touch involving voiceovers that just makes total sense.) This is actually one of the better films starring and SNL alumni to come out in the last few years, and shows Mooney to have a promising movie career.
3 Atomic BlondeCharlize Theron goes on a tear for the ages in this fun if somewhat shallow venture, another pin on her action hero lapel after her ferocious turn as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. As Lorraine Broughton, an undercover agent on a mission in Berlin in the late ’80s as the wall begins to fall, she showcases her ability to kick people through walls with the best of them. She also shows how to use a freezer door as a weapon. Directed by David Leitch, one of the directors of the original John Wick and future director of Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde pops with the same kind of kinetic energy as Wick when the bullets and kicks are flying. Also a legendary stuntman, Leitch knows how to make a hit look real, and the choreographed action scenes in this film stand as some of the year’s best. When Charlize lands a blow in this movie, you feel it in your face. Based on the graphic novel The Coldest City, the film does drag at times, especially when Lorraine does the standard interrogation room narrative scenes with Toby Jones and John Goodman drilling her for answers. While it could’ve used some tightening in the edit room, the movie is very much worth wading through the shallow parts. Late ’80s playlists are sure to spike on streaming services thanks to the film’s soundtrack, which includes David Bowie, Queen, Falco, ’Til Tuesday, the Clash and, quite notably, George Michael. (His “Father Figure” is put to astonishingly good use.)