This Week at the Movies: ‘Beasts of No Nation,’ ‘Crimson Peak,’ ‘Room’


If last week’s aesthetically impressive but insubstantial (Pan, The Walk) film offerings steered you away from the cineplex, perhaps this week’s trifecta of captivating dramas (Room, Beasts of No Nation, and Crimson Peak) will cure your movie malaise. As long as you avoid uninspired revisitations of pasts that didn’t need to be unearthed — a rundown of every goose that R.L. Stine ever bumped and a #Rathergate film — you should be safe from mediocrity.

  • Truth is simplistic, pedestrian swill,” writes Jason Bailey in his review of the Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford-starring (superficial) examination of the Rathergate scandal. And, as if those problems weren’t already working against the film, it’s being released nearly right alongside the superior and thematically similar Spotlight. (In limited release, apparently for the better)
  • In Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro once again proves his zealousness about the confines of genre: working gleefully within them, he’s created a dazzling mashup (or, as Alison Herman put it, a “smooth, Vitamixed blend”) of all your favorite literary mansions, creaking and reeking with ominous signs of tortured pasts. (In wide release)
  • Once Room lets audiences in on the sinister nature of the innocuously named prison Ma (Brie Larson) and her son inhabit, the film begins to examine the tenacity with which she creates a beautiful world from nothing for her child, and then must undo that world when she gets a chance to show him the real one. Bailey calls Larson’s performance “astonishing,” and notes how the film comes to conclusions you weren’t expecting, packing “a wallop of a different kind, as its protagonists find a simple yet bottomless truth, together.” (In limited release)
  • Beasts of No Nation, Cary Joji Fukunaga’s film about child soldiers and the individuals who indoctrinate them, marks the first feature release from Netflix — and it’s undeniably great, as Bailey puts it, that there’s a new platform for this kind of “mid-budget, adult-oriented movie that doesn’t get made often enough at the studio level.” Still, we suggest you see the film, which boasts a “tremendous performance” from Idris Elba, the old-fashioned way: in the theaters. (In limited release)
  • If Goosebumps had given in entirely to nostalgic camp, it could have intrigued adults who grew up during the books’ heyday. If it had tried to reinvent the series entirely to appeal to kids today, it could have, on the flip side, made for a decent kids’ movie. But it finds itself caught somewhere in between, with an equivocal meta-plot line that features cameos from across the series and factoids about the books that make the whole thing feel, as Michael Epstein puts it, like “a publisher’s press release.”