What's worth your time in TV and movies this weekend? EW's critics review the latest and upcoming releases: Beast, House of the Dragons, and Bad Sisters.
Advertisement

Bad Sisters

Streaming Now (Apple TV+)

Bad Sisters
Sharon Horgan, Eve Hewson, Eva Birthistle, and Sarah Greene in 'Bad Sisters'
| Credit: Natalie Seery/Apple TV+

Murder is on everybody's mind in Bad Sisters, an extremely dark comedy-thriller from BAFTA-winning multihyphenate Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe). Based on the Belgian series Clan, Sisters unspools an intricate and grim mystery about the power of family and the corrosive allure of revenge.

When John Paul Williams (Claes Bang) dies unexpectedly, his wife, Grace (Anne-Marie Duff), is devastated, but her four sisters — Eva (Horgan), Ursula (Eva Birthistle), Bibi (Sarah Greene), and Becka (Eve Hewson) — feel nothing but bitter satisfaction and relief. Their loathsome, manipulative brother-in-law spent years "suckin' the life" out of poor Gracie, isolating her through emotional and psychological abuse while tormenting her sisters in myriad ways both personal and professional. It doesn't take long for two insurance assessors, Thomas (Brian Gleeson) and Matthew Claffin (Daryl McCormack), to see that all the sisters had reason to want John Paul dead — though Matthew doesn't tell his brother why he's so desperate to avoid paying out Grace's claim.

Though the plot to eliminate John Paul begins as a lark — "Why not give nature a helpin' hand?" muses Bibi, after her siblings begin fantasizing about his death — it's the universe that has the last laugh. Each of the sisters' schemes results in increasingly dire (and wholly unintended) consequences. The humor goes from charcoal to obsidian to coal black, though the gorgeous setting on Dublin's rustic, rocky coast helps counterbalance all the darkness. At 6'4", Bang is a master of looming menace (he's excellent as the Big Bad in The Outlaws, too), and he elicits an almost palpable revulsion from viewers and in-laws alike. Horgan and her fellow TV sisters have the authentic bicker-banter chemistry of obsessively close siblings, and Duff brings a particularly affecting blend of vulnerability and stifled anger to every scene.

Horgan keeps the whodunnit questions spinning and viewer sympathies shifting between the sisters and the Claffin brothers until the final episode. But much like the Rube Goldberg-esque contraption that bumbles through the opening credits, sometimes Sisters' plotting overexerts itself on the way to the big reveal, adding little to the story but an extra hour or two to the runtime. The resolution is largely satisfying — a bit overblown, perhaps, but definitely not Bad. BKristen Baldwin

Beast

In theaters now

Beast
Idris Elba in 'Beast'
| Credit: Lauren Mulligan / Universal Pictures

Hell hath no fury like the salty CGI lion in Beast, a perfectly ludicrous red-meat thriller starring Idris Elba and a big cat so bent on vengeance he's less like a wild animal than a hitman, Harvey Keitel with paw pads. Elba's Nate Daniels, a recently widowed New York doctor, has no idea who's coming for dinner when he lands in the African bush with his two grieving teenage daughters in tow; he just wants to reconnect with his girls, Nora (Leah Jeffries) and Mer (Iyana Halley), and show them where their late mom came from. 

Their mother's old friend, an amiable game warden named Martin (Sharlto Copley), is happy to host and throw in a first-class free safari. Alas, they're not alone out there amongst the zebras and pretty sunsets: A gang of roving poachers has already set the stage for carnage, wiping out an entire pride in the night but leaving one straggler alive. And like every steely-eyed survivor before him — Inigo Montoya, Maximus, John Wick — he demands justice for the blood that's been spilled. (Never mind that that's not really how lions, or really any apex predator works; basic zoology, along with most other forms of pesky science, has not survived the title credits.)

This mangy streak of rage doesn't distinguish between good and bad humans; he sees soft pink, he kills. So when he corners our heroes out in the middle of nowhere and starts taking swipes at their Jeep, the chase is on — a battle royale that might have been more genuinely frightening if the special effects were less Polar Express; the poor lion is so smeary and bionic you can nearly see the pixels. Still, despite Martin's dire and well-informed warnings — "It's not a fight you're designed to win!" — Nate and his offspring are determined to claw their way back to the homestead, or die trying. That means a lot of jump scares and stalking scenes courtesy of Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur (Adrift), and large chunks of woodblock dialogue that range from the ridiculous to the faintly sublime. By the time Elba has gone full mano-a-mano (mano-a-leo?) in the climactic fight scene, taking on a half-ton killer like he's kickboxing a mongoose, the movie surrenders fully to camp. It's August and we have Idris, Beast seems to say; do you really have anywhere better to be? C+ —Leah Greenblatt

House of the Dragon

Premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO (and available to stream on HBO Max)

House of the Dragon
Matt Smith in 'House of the Dragon'
| Credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon starts big and unwieldy, with a lamely expository prologue that leads into a show full of big sets, big fights, big tragedies, and big dragons. We're in a prequel age of Targaryens, and King Viserys (Paddy Considine) has major succession problems. Fifteen-year-old Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) has spent her whole life being overlooked, while the nation awaits a male heir. Her mad-eyed uncle Daemon (Matt Smith) waits in the wings, full of ambition and violent lusts. Rhaenyra and her (now adult) friend Alicent (Olivia Cooke) are both imprisoned by cultural expectation, pimped out by dads for high-status matches. And after long decades of peace and prosperity, everyone in the Red Keep sees war coming.

The show adapts George R.R. Martin's Fire & Blood, and honors that book's rapid progression through history. The early episodes can be awkward, with a tangent into naval warfare and a notable lack of breakout supporting characters. But Alcock and Smith are immediately fascinating as ethereal-destructive Targaryens, while Considine turns his try-hard King into a magnetic portrait of emotional disintegration. Dragon doesn't soar immediately, but no House was built in a day. B —Darren Franich

Related content:

Comments