If you’re more interested in golden statuettes than gallant superheroes, you can come out of hiding and back into the movie theaters – the season of summer blockbusters is over.
This weekend, a whole slew of highly anticipated films are premiering:
* “The Ides of March”: An “impeccably acted and grippingly paced” political thriller that revolves around a young campaign press secretary’s involvement in a political scandal that threatens to upend his candidate’s shot at the presidency.
* “Real Steel”: The film about boxing robots defies expectations, “proving it doesn’t matter what the genre is if genuinely talented and dedicated people are pulling the strings instead of hacks.”
* “Intruders”: The parallel stories about two families whose lives have been upended by disturbing apparitions is a psychological thriller that’s “creepy and atmospheric… well written and stylishly directed.”
There is something unshakable about the bond between human and dog. It is difficult to articulate, yet effortless to feel. Warm, trusting, and magnificent, the experiences we share with our four-legged friends are unquestionably unique and special.
Orlean begins Rin Tin Tin’s sweeping biography with one brief, powerful sentence: “He believed the dog was immortal.” He, of course, is Corporal Lee Duncan, the man who discovered Rin Tin Tin in 1918 on a World War I battlefield and soon catapulted the pup to Hollywood fame. Duncan even wrote a poem about his beloved dog, available here.
Orlean’s publisher remarks, “At its heart, Rin Tin Tin is a poignant exploration of the enduring bond between humans and animals. But it is also a richly textured history of twentieth-century entertainment and entrepreneurship and the changing role of dogs in the American family and society.” Kirkus Reviews, too, declares “Rin Tin Tin” to be an “astonishing story.”
“’Drive’ revels in sensory detail,” writes Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum. “It’s a visually and aurally edgy Euro-influenced American genre movie about the coolness of noir-influenced American genre movies about the coolness of driving.”
Let’s start over. “Drive,” a new movie starring Ryan Gosling as a stunt driver-turned-getaway-driver-turned-knight-in-shining-armor, premieres in theaters this weekend. And – if you couldn’t tell from the aforementioned review – critics are raving.
Time Out New York’s Joshua Rothkopf calls the film “some kind of masterpiece.” Hollywood News’ Sean O’Connell agrees, saying, “This genre film does what it does so well, and with such impressive directorial finesse, you won’t mind stepping into the criminal muck and covering yourself in the blood and filth of some ice-cold thieves.”
What more could you want from “a hyper-stylized blend of striking images and violence [that] represents a fully realized vision of arthouse action”?
“Drive” opens in wide release this weekend.
If “blood and filth” isn’t your idea of box-office entertainment, these movies are also opening:
» “Straw Dogs”: The film about a Hollywood screenwriter and his wife who return to her small Southern hometown only to confront old conflicts is garnering mixed reviews. While Roger Ebert found it “visceral, disturbing and well-made,” Roger Moore thought “Straw Dogs” was “a pretty unpleasant wallow in the obvious.” Opening in wide release.
» “I Don’t Know How She Does It”: Sarah Jessica Parker attempts to balance marriage, kids, and a demanding career in this “endless, painfully predictable” film that Brian Orndorf calls “insipid wish fulfillment.” Opening in wide release, if you aren’t deterred by a 25% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
This weekend, the “paranoia-fest [that’s] a straightforward ticking-clock thriller,” “Contagion,” opens in theaters nationwide. The plot follows the rapid progress of a lethal airborne virus that kills its victims within days, spreading panic as quickly as disease.
Critics are praising the film for being what many of its predecessors were not – believable and intelligent. “Taut with energy from start to finish, ‘Contagion’’s portrait of a global epidemic is just the right mix of scary, informative and emotionally powerful,” writes Film Journal International’s Sarah Sluis.
Richard Roeper agrees, stating simply, “’Contagion’ is a brilliantly executed disease outbreak movie.”
Going to the movies this weekend? You might think twice about sitting next to the sneezing guy on the bus.
Sigourney Weaver with a perm and a machine gun. Facehuggers and Chestbursters. Ridley Scott. The “Alien” franchise, which was released in 1979 and has spawned numerous novels, comic books, video games, toys, and other media and merchandise, holds its place more than thirty years later after its debut as one of the most iconic extraterrestrial thrillers of all time. Rumor has it a fifth sequel could be in the works.
The phrase “I’m sorry, Dave” has never sounded more ominous than when Hal, the only computer to make AFI’s list of “Greatest Villains of All Time,” utters it in a gentle monotone in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece film, “2001.”
Although not technically set in space, the complete isolation of a submarine crew 1,000 feet below the water’s surface, cut off from all outside communication, rivals that of deep space. Decompression chambers, a mysterious sphere, and a slew of bloodthirsty jellyfish don’t make the setting any more welcoming – or human – than a galaxy far, far away.
What doesn’t this film have? Astronauts gouging their own eyes out, screaming curses in Latin, and fighting in vain against a sinister force they describe as “pure chaos, pure evil” are details that only begin to scratch the surface of one of the most depraved – not to mention violent – films of its genre.
No list of horror movies set in outer space would be complete without mentioning the crowning jewel of its genre, “Leprechaun 4.” The movie that’s garnered an impressive zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes needs no more explanation than this tidbit of plot synopsis: “While the rest of the crew attend to [the narcissistic princess] Zarina, Kowalski urinates on the Leprechaun’s dismembered leg.”
The remake of the 1973 made-for-TV movie is based on a tried-and-true horror plot: Young couple undertakes renovation of their Gothic mansion. Isolated only child (IOC) hears whispers promising friendship from within the mansion walls. IOC, being an IOC, seeks out the source of the promises and accidentally unleashes a horde of demonic creatures. IOC tries to warn her family. No one believes her. End scene.
“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is garnering a mish-mash of reviews that run the gamut from scathing to laudatory. On one hand, critics like the Orlando Sentinel’s Roger Moore say the film is “a literally hair-raising piece of modern-style old school Gothic horror” capped off by a finale that’s “perfectly chilling.”
On the other hand, there are reviews from critics such as Owen Glieberman, who calls the film “a plodding, derivative gothic potboiler,” and Steve Persall, who says, “That creaking sound during ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’ isn’t a door opening ghostly; it’s the groaning cliché of a haunted house and stupid people who don’t know when to leave.”
Citizen Kane, this is not. But if you’re in the mood for goosebumps, you could do worse than “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.”
Sparkly Edward. Aristocratic Bill Compton. And now… Colin Farrell?
That’s right. The Irish troublemaker joins the ever-growing club of pop culture vampires by starring as Jerry, everyone’s favorite vampire-next-door, in a remake of the classic comedy-horror classic, “Fright Night,” which opens in wide release this weekend.
The plot of the 1985 cult classic follows a typical boy-meets-neighbor, neighbor-turns-out-to-be-vampire, nobody-believes-the-boy-so-he-must-destroy-the-vampire-himself story arc. But unlike so many film remakes, the new “Fright Night” not only stands up to the legacy of its predecessor, but, many critics say, surpasses it.
Film reviewer Mark Dujsik calls the film a “superior reassembling” of the original – a sentiment echoed by the Washington Post’s Sean O’Connell, who says, “It improves on the premise it has been handed, producing a modernized version of a decades-old story that’s superior to its predecessor in virtually every aspect.”
Will you spend a few bucks this weekend to see the film critics are calling “sharp-tounged” and “refreshingly straightforward and self-deprecating?” Or would you rather pop in the old VHS tape and press rewind?
Also opening this weekend:
» “Conan the Barbarian” : Another remake of a classic film, but one that isn’t going over so well with critics, who are calling it a “ham-handed adventure flick in eye-deadening, wallet-draining 3-D” that’s the “very definition of the dumb summer flick.” Opening in wide release.
» “One Day” : Not a remake, but a book-to-film adaptation – one that critics aren’t buying. Called “flat, excruciatingly predictable… and melodramatic,” reviewers warn, “Long before the credits roll, you may find yourself wishing your life could flash before your eyes, to end the monotony of this relentless turning of calendar pages.” Opening in wide release.
Set under the blazing Mississippi sun, “The Help” is attracting some heat of its own — based on buzz so far, it’s sure to to burn up box offices this weekend.
“The Help,” a film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 novel of the same name, tells the story of two African-American maids (Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer) who work in white households, and the aspiring young journalist (Emma Stone) who dares to tell their story. Critics concur that the movie delivers a powerful emotional punch — but some wish the blow was a little less blunt.
The New York Daily News’ Elizabeth Weitzmen calls the film “impactful in parts, but noticeably lacking in Stockett’s instinctive nuance,” while David Denby of the New Yorker says that “The Help” is “in some ways, crude and obvious, but … parts of it are so moving and well acted that any objections to what’s second-rate seem to matter less as the movie goes on.”
Praise for the lead actresses is unanimous. Slate’s Dana Stevens calls leads Davis and Spencer “tremendous.” David Edelstein gushes that Davis “gives this too-soft movie a spine” with her “tough, beautifully judged performance.”
Does this movie’s simple story do justice to its complicated setting? See “The Help” this weekend to decide for yourself.
Also opening this weekend:
»”Final Destination 5”: The fifth installment of the teen horror series finds yet another group of teens doomed to bizarre, grizzly deaths. One critic calls Final Destination 5 “the best sequel in the bunch,” while others condemn the “anemic installment” to the franchise that’s purely “content with giving viewers more of the same.”
»”30 Minutes or Less”: From the makers of Zombieland comes another wacky action-comedy. This time, a pizza delivery boy (Jesse Eisenburg) must rob a bank after being kidnapped by two thugs. Claudia Plug says the movie “wallows in stupidity without making the bromance bonds believable,” but with a run time of only 83 minutes, critic Gary Thompson praises “30 Minutes or Less” as “fast, foul and frequently funny.”
As the actress herself found out after an ill-fated plastic surgery, Jennifer Grey just isn’t Jennifer Grey without the prominent proboscis that made her face so distinct.
Couldn’t the same, then, be said for Baby, the corner-eschewing, time-of-her-life-having, pouty little rich girl who falls in with Johnny Castle, the bad-boy dance instructor played by Patrick Swayze in the iconic ’80s flick “Dirty Dancing”?
There’s a “Dirty Dancing” remake afoot, and before casting directors have their say, we’d like to tip in some actresses for whom a step into Baby’s dancing shoes could be a big beak break.
LEA MICHELE: Our favorite. The “Glee” star has refused rhinoplasty both in reality and on screen, and has already had to learn some choreography for the show’s thoroughly believable high school glee club performances. (Whose alma mater didn’t have a props department, right?)
Grey-o-meter: Nose question, she’s a shoo-in.
BLAKE LIVELY: The “Gossip Girl” mainstay is already used to playing wealthy, so parallels between her Serena and Grey’s Baby should be easy to find. She was also in this year’s “Green Lantern” flick, which means she’s used to being swept off her feet by a man some consider a superhero.
Grey-o-meter: She could fit the bill.
ASHLEY TISDALE: Can roles in two major teen/tween franchises — “Hannah Montana” and the “High School Musical” movies — be considered anything but Baby training? Her schnoz isn’t quite Grey-level, but what she lacks in face, she makes up for in flash.
Grey-o-meter: Nothing to sneeze at.
HAYLIE DUFF: OK, she’s not sister Hilary. But try setting your eyes upon that sniffer without gaping in wonderment. She’s a bona fide actress, too, with roles in TV shows like “7th Heaven” and a Broadway run in “Hairspray.” And did you see that schnoz? Even Jennifer herself would be gray with envy.
Producers are plotting multiple sequels. An actor’s performance is prompting critics to question whether motion-capture roles can be nominated for Academy Awards. And “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” hasn’t even opened in theaters yet.
The origin story of the super-intelligent primates begins, as many science fiction tales do, with a scientist. Will Rodman (James Franco) is searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. He tests a “cure” on a chimpanzee named Caesar (Andy Serkis, of Gollum fame), and, lo and behold, something goes wrong. Caesar acquires human-like intelligence, escapes the lab, genetically engineers his fellow chimps, and does what any logical man-ape would do: forms an army to overthrow humanity.
As silly as the premise may be, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is garnering impressive critical praise. Screen International’s Tim Grierson calls the film “a taut, emotionally satisfying origin story” that’s “far more rewarding” than other summer blockbusters. Contra Costa’s Randy Myers agrees, characterizing it as “an entertaining picture [that] rises to the occasion and resoundingly exceeds expectations.”
And MSN Movies’ Glenn Kenny is succinct: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is “very nearly close to completely awesome.”
What more could you want from a summer movie about smart monkeys?
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” opens in theaters in wide release this weekend.
» “The Change-Up”: A modern-day “Freaky Friday” tale that replaces mom and daughter with promiscuous single guy and buttoned-up married guy. It “follows the basic conventions of the switched-identity genre, if more profanely, changing up not much at all.” Can you guess what happens at the end? Opening in wide release.
» “The Whistleblower”: Rachel Weisz is Nebraskan police officer who takes a job working as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia and discovers “a dangerous reality of corruption, cover-up and intrigue.” It’s been called “a grisly, authentic, meticulously researched, pulse-quickening political chiller” with strong reviews across the board. Opening in wide release.