1. Movies

What's in theaters this week: 'Ready Player One,' 'The Death of Stalin,' 'Tyler Perry's Acrimony'

"Ready player one" (Warner Bros. Pictures) 1226782
Published Mar. 28, 2018


Despite its somber title, The Death of Stalin (R) is the year's funniest movie so far, delivered by director/co-writer Armando Iannucci with the politically profane snarl he brought to HBO's Veep and In the Loop. The subject is Stalin, the vibe is certainly Marx — Groucho, not Karl.

The titular demise in 1953 sets off a Kremlin power struggle between Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) and secret police chief Lavrenti Beria (Simon Russell Beale) behind the bumbling back of deputy premier Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor). Stalin's reign of terror leads to venomous desperation, sight-gag executions and too many deliciously snide asides to recall.

Based on a French comic book, The Death of Stalin has a historical spin so screwball that British accents and Buscemi's Brookynese are the least of its accuracy issues. Iannucci and three co-writers weave a tale of fearful oppression and petty cloakroom intrigue, a satire of Pythonesque proportions underlined by Michael Palin delighting as Vyacheslav Molotov (like the cocktail).

Buscemi's Khruschev isn't that far from his Mr. Pink, which is half the humor in his performance. Tambor is comically on key yet his alleged sexual misbehavior gets in the way; nobody that bad should be so good. Best of show honors are shared by Beale and Jason Isaacs as preening Red Army field marshal Zhukov.

The Death of Stalin is explicit content music to the ears of comedy buffs, a torrent of gutter wordsmithery unleashed by a bawdy ensemble. Kind of like Veep with a hammer and sickle, smart, tart and daftly topical. A- (Veterans 24 in Tampa; Sundial 19 in St. Petersburg; Cinebistro at Hyde Park)



Steven Spielberg makes an overdue return to popcorn movie-making with Ready Player One (PG-13), a fantasy barreling through virtual reality.

Tye Sheridan stars as Wade Watts, a VR game fanatic playing OASIS under the avatar Parzival with others worldwide. When the game's inventor (Oscar winner Mark Rylance) dies, he bequeaths the game and its fortunes to whomever finds the "Easter egg" he left inside the game.

Olivia Cooke and Ben Mendelsohn co-star but the main attractions are those '80s pop culture references peppering Ernest Cline's novel and stoking Spielberg's nostalgic creativity. Think Who Framed Roger Rabbit with more than just cartoon touchstones.

Read a review at


Hell hath no fury like Taraji P. Henson, right, scorned. She brings that Empire fire to Tyler Perry's Acrimony (R), getting Glenn Close to killing a man who did her wrong. Henson plays Melinda, staying loyal to a straying husband (Lyriq Bent) until she snaps. She begins stalking him and his mistress; the flip side of Fatal Attraction. Henson going off might be fun, but as always Perry doesn't offer screenings to many critics. Just those admiring his work, so not many.


After dropping $60 million into the box office collection plate, worshipers of 2014's God's Not Dead prayed for a sequel. In A Light in Darkness (PG), Pastor Dave (David A.R. White) suffers his church burned to the ground on a university campus. That's enough reason for the godless administration to force the congregation off campus, while at the same time Pastor Dave is rehashing old beefs with his estranged brother (John Corbett). Pray for us all.

In theaters: our Top 5

Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:

1 Isle of Dogs: Go fetch Wes Anderson's all-star animated treat. (Tampa Theatre) Read a review.

2 The Death of Stalin: Funniest political satire in years? Da.

3 Black Panther: Marvel's latest superhero is a cultural game changer.

4 Annihilation: Alex Garland's sci-fi bio-puzzle starring Natalie Portman.

5 Unsane: Steven Soderbergh makes a lurid thriller on a cellphone.


(Dates subject to change)

April 6: A Quiet Place; Blockers; The Miracle Season; You Were Never Really Here; Chappaquiddick; Finding Your Feet

April 11: Beirut

April 13: Overboard; Truth or Dare

April 20: Rampage; Super Troopers 2; Dolphins; Duck Duck Goose

April 27: Lean on Pete; Animal Crackers; Traffik


  1. "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" stars Tom Hanks. LACEY TERRELL  |  TriStar Pictures/Sony Pictures
    ‘21 Bridges’ and 'The Irishman’ also open locally, plus a film in the park and the anniversary screening of ‘Galaxy Quest.’
  2. Director Dan Myrick, left, and Kristian Krempel are pictured on Seventh Avenue in Tampa's Ybor City.
    The series features six 15-minute fictional horror stories based on Ybor history.
  3. Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott in "Charlie's Angels." MERIE WEISMILLER WALLACE  |  Columbia Pictures
    Screenings of ‘Turning Point’ and ‘Lionel Richie at Glastonbury’ are also in store for the week.
  4. FILE - In this April 3, 2019, file photo characters from Disney and Fox movies are displayed behind Cathleen Taff, president of distribution, franchise management, business and audience insight for Walt Disney Studios during the Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures presentation at CinemaCon 2019, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. On Tuesday, Nov. 12, Disney Plus launches its streaming service. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File) CHRIS PIZZELLO  |  Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
    The Walt Disney Company’s foray into streaming services is off with a few hitches
  5. The Blair Witch Project director Dan Myrick, left, and his production company partner Kristian Krempel on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City.
    The production company estimates it will spend over $1 million locally
  6. Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Terminator: Dark Fate." KERRY BROWN  |  Paramount Pictures
    ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ and ‘Arctic Dogs’ open, too, plus screenings of ‘Jane’ with a score by the Florida Orchestra and ‘Parasite.’
  7. Former WWE wrestler turned actor John Hennigan performs stunts in the movie "Speed of Time" being made in Clearwater. Christian Cashmir
    It stars former WWE wrestler-turned-actor John Hennigan.
  8. Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater and the Coast Guard Cutter "Tornado" rescue Nick Schuyler from an overturned vessel in 2009. Coast Guard photo/Fireman Adam Campbell (2009)
    “Not Without Hope” is based on the true story of the boat accident that took the lives of three football players and left a fourth stranded at sea.
  9. Mike Sandlin, owner of Grindhouse Video in Tampa, poses for a photo at his store. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Grindhouse Video, a temple of horror flicks, B movies and cult films, proves the video store isn’t dead yet.
  10. "The Current War" stars Benedict Cumberbatch. DEAN ROGERS  |  101 Studios
    ‘Countdown,’ ‘One Piece: Stampede,’ ‘Dolemite Is My Name’ and ‘The Great Alaskan Race’ also open, plus three horror screenings.