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Movie Review: ‘The Book of Henry’ Is Clever, Inventive and Unpredictable

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Book of Henry Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Book of Henry is a film that comes as a bit of a challenge to sell its genius. There is never a point when the film accepts one genre or tone, always throwing the viewer for a loop. The movie begins with the whimsy of an unorthodox family comedy, twists into a somber drama of loss and contorts into a nail-biting thriller.

And yet it never feels as though the movie is struggling to find its core, knowing full well where this train is going even when we don’t. I see so many films that always place themselves on a predictable track and hit the expected beats, which is why it’s such a joy to finally see a film that is brimming with surprises of all colors.

Book of Henry Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

Jaeden Lieberher and Jacob Tremblay star in ‘The Book of Henry.’

The story begins innocently enough with the highly intelligent and inventive Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) delivering a book report far too existential for an 11-year-old. The only reason he’s in a public school and not a more gifted program is for the benefit of being social around more normal kids. It’s hard to blend in when you spend your lunch hour trading stocks, but he’s trying to make an effort.

At home, Henry’s time is divided up between assembling all sorts of neat gadgets in his elaborately designed treehouse and going over the household expenses. Isn’t that the job of the parents? Dad is out of the picture and Henry’s mother Susan, played by the always-versatile Naomi Watts, isn’t much of a mom for such a smart kid. She’s not neglectful or unloving; she’d just rather play video games while Henry figures out the bills.

Life seems perfect for this family where Henry builds all sorts of neat inventions with his little brother Peter (Jacob Tremblay) and mom’s bedtime routine involves her self-written stories and songs. All is not well nextdoor, however, as Henry’s love interest Christina (Maddie Ziegler) is secretly beaten by her single stepfather Glen (Dean Norris). Not content to sit by and do nothing, Henry takes it upon himself to save her through proper channels. No luck on this front as Glen is such a revered member of the community that child protective services and the police are useless. This leads Henry to set his own plans in motion for rescuing the sweet Christina from another night of violence.

Book of Henry Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

The happy family is unconventional.

But Henry’s genius cannot go far as a brain tumor cuts his life short. As a sort of final request, he leaves his mother a red book with detailed instructions on how to save Christina. The short answer: Kill Glen. This is absurd, but the more Susan lays out her options, she comes to agree with Henry’s decision. She’s always been dependent on his lead after all, not having been much of a mother herself. But can she really kill for her son?

Related: Movie Review: ‘Cars 3’ Burns Out What Little Gas It Had

With so many wicked twists, The Book of Henry could have easily spun out of control into a chaotic movie that bounces around genres and tones at random. And, yet, it surprisingly manages to maintain its core of family drama for a film with child abuse, tearful death and a gun-toting mom.

Book of Henry Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

The infamous book.

What helps keep the film planted amid its confounding nature is the underlying theme of characters that fear they’re not quite there. Henry becomes so enraptured with saving Christina and sorting out finances before his passing that he forgets how comforting it is to be a kid before his untimely demise. Peter harbors frustrating thoughts of trying to carry on his brother’s legacy, fearing he won’t be the glue that kept mom stable. And Susan has the all-too-understandable anxiety of not being the right mother, frightened and paralyzed to move forward as the matriarch she must become.

Read more for the rest of the movie review of The Book of Henry:

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Box Office

“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure

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Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.

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