Our staffers have some recommendations for what you can watch at the theater or in the comfort of your home this weekend.
Adam Nayman: In short, it’s trash, and the best trash is typically the kind where the style clinically and efficiently serves the story. David Fincher is the patron saint of this sort of thing. The storytelling in The Snowman is the cinematic equivalent of listening to somebody trying to remember the plot of a paperback they read in an airport 10 years ago. It’s like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo done as an episode of Drunk History. There are two timelines in the film. One is set in the present and involves Michael Fassbender’s teetotaling Harry Hole skulking through Oslo in search of the monster leaving him little handwritten notes at the scenes of crimes. The other is framed as “nine years earlier” and features Val Kilmer as a similarly addled detective investigating similar (identical?) murders.
K. Austin Collins: Marshall manages to be entertaining without trying to be great, as it was made by people who know that the story itself is already a good hook. It doesn’t look great either (“TV movie” comes to mind, which is as harsh as some of the movie’s lighting), and the slightly off energy of the actors sometimes comes off as phoning it in. Admirably, despite this, [Thurgood] Marshall and [Sam] Friedman emerge with unexpected complexity, thanks to a crafty, sympathetic sense of humor and timing in [Reginald] Hudlin’s direction and nimble and idea-rich writing from father-son pair Michael and Jacob Koskoff. They collectively give us a Marshall and Friedman who seem linked by fate. They get beaten up at the same time; they face compatible personal pressures with regard to family life and their respective communities. Thanks to his knack for reading social cues, Marshall feels his way through the case by studying the people involved. Friedman, meanwhile, grows alongside the case—and as that happens, Hudlin’s approach to filming the courtroom scenes changes, seemingly giving us a sense of Friedman’s increased physical and rhetorical presence as he litigates.
Collins: Wonderstruck, a movie about discovery above all else, is not really an experience that hinges so much on plot. This is a movie premised, instead, on guiding us through an array of sensations. It’s about sights and sounds, textures and colors, objects, feelings, and memories. The movie opens with a boy dreaming of wolves: a blue, ravenously assembled collage of images that bespeak horror as much as wonder. It ends two hours later with a family history told museum-style, through dioramas and moving figurines, as if the story of one’s ancestry were both living history and exhibit. Everything explored in between—from the encroaching death of silent movies and the New York City blackout of 1977 to a sensitive study of hearing and deaf communication across the century—is crafted with the same sense of affection and daring as the movie’s more experimental bits.
Alison Herman: For any other comedian, the beginning of Annihilation would make for a memorable, entertaining set. But it’s the second half that will define the special in [Patton] Oswalt’s career and public persona, because it’s the second that takes on what it’s like to become a widower and single parent in middle age with no warning or reason. If and how Oswalt would spin this personal tragedy into comedy is an undeniable part of Annihilation’s draw, as well as its astronomical challenge. Oswalt rises to the occasion with a frank, confessional monologue that never strains for laughter. The comic merely uses humor, as we all do, as a coping mechanism life has a habit of supplying for us. The only difference is that Oswalt’s humor is sharper and more concentrated, because we’re in the hands of a professional who’s mulled his loss and refined his delivery for more than a year.
Brian Phillips: Hm. Had I even heard of Mozart in the Jungle? I wracked my brain. I had a vague sense, possibly because of the word “Mozart” in the title, that it was about classical music. I had an equally vague sense, possibly because of the word “jungle” in the title, that it was about a megalomaniacal Victorian rubber baron who wore white linen suits and tried to found an opera company in Manaus.
“It’s about a symphony orchestra in New York City,” she said. “It’s not always great, but I sort of like it. It’s rare to see a show about a man who tries to be good and has the capacity to change.”
Herman: Not much has changed in the town of Riverdale. The show’s second season may have started last week, but true to the Archie comics on which Riverdale is based, the CW show’s iconography remains eerily arrested in time: nurses in a hospital wear old-school white uniforms with matching hats; kids get milkshakes and burgers at the charmingly misspelled local institution Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe; a teen girl wears a set of pearls at all times, even when she’s having shower sex. The action itself has the same noir-meets-soap-opera churn, just with a different overarching mystery—“Who shot Fred Andrews?” is the new “Who killed Jason Blossom?”—and a new antagonistic parental figure in Mark Consuelos’s Hiram Lodge. And crucially, the whole thing is still narrated with insufferable/endearing self-importance by a certain beanie-sporting burger fiend, here reimagined as a sullen Tumblr bro.