Movies This Weekend: ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ Is Two Genres for the Price of One

Q: What do you get when you mix six-shooters, a grizzled Harrison Ford, and the O.K. Corral with flying saucers, neon laser beams, and an amnesiac Daniel Craig?

A: “Cowboys and Aliens.”

The film, which opens this weekend, is about… cowboys. And aliens. Fighting. And, according to critics, that’s pretty much all there is to it.

“You want cowboys and aliens in the same movie?” Keith Phipps of the AV Club asks. “This one’s for you. If you want anything beyond what the title promises, look elsewhere.” And many reviewers, including ReelViews’ James Berardinelli, find fault even there: “Cowboys & Aliens is a mashup of a mediocre Western and a mediocre science fiction story,” he writes – a sentiment echoed by Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir, who chimes in, “The movie never makes much of a case for its own existence; it’s a mediocre western clumsily welded to a mediocre alien shoot-‘em-up.”

That’s four votes for “mediocre,” if you’re keeping track.

However, some critics say, the failings of the hybrid genre are irrelevant. Brian Orndorf calls the film “an entertaining slice of summer escapism” and Chris Bumbray adds that it’s a “fun-filled summer blockbuster.”

That’s two votes for summer fun. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?

“Cowboys and Aliens” opens this weekend in wide release. Who do you think will be the victor?

Also out this weekend:

» “The Smurfs”: Currently garnering an impressive zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the gang of pocket-sized, blue cartoons isn’t receiving a warm welcome from critics. MSN Movies’ Glenn Kenny sums it up with his review: “…the adults who take [the kids] to see the movie won’t feel too good about themselves, or their existences, or the state of life on the planet, as the lights go up.” That’s smurfing harsh. Opening in wide release.

» “Crazy, Stupid Love”: A “sharply funny and touching” film that’s “layered with impressive performances and a generous heart.” Starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, and Emma Stone, the romantic comedy is “the perfect combination of sexy, cute, wise, hilarious, and true.” Opening in wide release.

Follow Trove’s Film Reviews and Movie Box Office channels to see what else is lighting up – and dimming down – the silver screen this weekend.

Movies This Weekend: ‘Captain America’ is ‘Fun, Fun, Fun, Fun’

It wouldn’t be summer without a slew of superheroes, villains, and damsels in distress battling to rid the streets of crime/achieve global domination/look vulnerable in spandex on the silver screen. Following a jam-packed summer roster of x-men and glowing rings, the latest offering, “Captain America: The First Avenger,” opens in wide release this weekend.

For those unfamiliar with the Marvel comic, the basic premise of “Captain America” is this: regular-Joe Steve Rodgers volunteers to participate in an experimental program (never a good idea in the world of comics), which inevitably results in his transformation into a Super Soldier, “Captain America.” He scoops up a sidekick and hot date and together, they battle an evil empire (the fascist HYDRA organization) that is, of course, spearheaded by an evil villain, Red Skull.

Hero? Check. Villain? Check. Damsel? Check. The only thing missing is popcorn.

“Captain America: The First Avenger” is being received by critics, on the whole, as one of the better superhero movies of late. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott says the film has “a winningly pulpy, jaunty, earnest spirit,” and Steve Persall, of the St. Petersburg Times, praises director Joe Johnston for keeping things “relatively simple and pleasantly stupid,” as a superhero movie should be.

That’s not to say that the film will be considered for an Academy Award anytime soon – “Overall, it’s a lot of fun before it gets somewhat bogged down,” says NY 1-TV’s Neil Rosen, and Chris Bumbray concedes it’s “not a perfect film, but a damn fun one.”

Fun, fun, fun, fun. But isn’t that what summer blockbusters are all about?

Also opening in wide release this weekend:

Friends With Benefits” : Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis star in this “sexy and funny” film about two friends who decide to add sex to their routine hang-outs. (Wait, didn’t this movie come out a few months ago? And wasn’t it called “No Strings Attached”?) The film “evaporates from memory,” according to the Miami Herald’s Rene Rodriguez, but, OK! Magazine’s Phil Villarreal points out, it establishes Justin Timberlake as a talented actor, “given the fact that his character is only an extreme mega-douchebag, rather than the tremendous, mind-blowing super-douche he usually plays.”

» For more on the star-spangled superhero and his ilk, check out Trove’s “Captain America,” Film Reviews, and Movie Box Office channels.

Image via official site.

Movies This Weekend: More Than Just Wizards

If you don’t know a horcrux from a horseshoe and prefer your beer with more barley than butter, don’t worry. Contrary to popular belief, there are movies other than “Harry Potter” debuting in theaters this weekend.

» Before there was Hogwarts and Diagon Alley, there was Christopher Robin and his Hundred-Acre Wood. “Winnie the Pooh” follows the gang of bouncing tigers and mopey donkeys as they band together to save their friend Christopher from an imaginary culprit in an hour-long film that’s been called “charming and timeless” and “sweet, low-key, and utterly lovable” by critics. Opening in wide release.

» In a small village outside Johannesburg, 12-year-old Chandra learns of a rumor that comes to destroy her family and forces her mother to flee her home in “Life, Above All.” Determined to overcome the fear and shame that have choked her community, she sets off in search of her mother and the truth. Khomotso Manyaka makes a “stunning debut performance” in this “engrossing story of heroism and compassion” that critics hail as “high art with a big heart.” Opening in limited release.

» If you’ve ever considered picking up a hitchhiker, “Daylight” might make you think twice. More than just another psychological thriller, director David Barker offers a script that IndieWIRE’s Eric Kohn says “demonstrates a conviction that its genre can command great importance, allowing it to transcend the easy shocks associated with the exploitation movie experience and create an entirely fresh rhythm.” Opening in limited release.

For more about what’s coming to theaters near you, check out Trove’s Film Reviews and Movie Box Office channels. And, of course, you can always keep up with the trials and tribulations of Harry Potter, if that’s more your thing.

Image by Reuters

Movies This Weekend: ‘Horrible Bosses’ Delights in the Macabre

Unless you were lucky enough to have been visiting London’s Trafalgar Square yesterday when the last installment of the “Harry Potter” franchise premiered, you’ll have to wait a week to bid adieu to The Boy Who Lived. But that doesn’t mean you can’t grab some popcorn and check out these movies opening stateside.

Leading the pack, with a 75 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is the dark comedy “Horrible Bosses,” which follows three friends (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudekis) who decide to murder their overbearing, abusive bosses (Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston), who they believe are standing in the way of their happiness. But, as the official tagline warns, “even the best laid plans are only as foolproof as the brains behind them.” Cue hijinks.’s Eric D. Snider calls “Horrible Bosses” “a jubilant, vulgar, and extremely funny farce,” adding, “Day, Sudeikis, and Bateman are a dream team of comic actors.” Eugene Novikov agrees, saying the film is “funny; really, consistently funny, with a first-class ear for non sequitur, a fast pace, and a half dozen of the year’s best comic performances.”

Screen It!’s Teddy Durgin adds that he recommends “Horrible Bosses” to “anyone who has a strong stomach for profanity and a desire to see Jennifer Aniston absolutely trashing her good-girl image.”

Will you spend a couple of hours this weekend daydreaming of taking revenge on your horrible boss? Or is work frustration better confined to the 9-to-5 life?

Also opening this weekend:

» “Project Nim”: From the team behind the Academy Award-winning documentary “Man on Wire” comes the story of Nim, the chimpanzee who in the 1970s became the focus of a landmark experiment which aimed to show that an ape could learn to communicate with language if raised and nurtured like a human child. Called “brilliant,” “provocative,” and “enthralling” by critics, it’s garnering universal praise. Opening in limited release.

» “Zookeeper”: Kevin James stars in this “children’s comedy about talking animals that feels as if it were written by children or, perhaps, by talking animals.” “Kids may get a few laughs out of the talking animals,” says critic Jason Zingale, “but any parent unfortunate enough to have to tag along might want to consider bringing a blindfold and some earplugs to ease the pain.” Opening in wide release.

To learn more about what’s lighting up (and fizzling out) on the silver screen, check out Trove’s Film Reviews and Movie Box Office channels.

Image via Reuters

Movies This Weekend: Conan O’Brien ‘Can’t Stop’

Coco’s back in the spotlight. And he’s coming to a theater near you.

In January 2010, a highly publicized feud between talk show host Conan O’Brien and executives at NBC imploded, leading O’Brien to quit his run on “The Tonight Show” after less than eight months and end a working relationship that spanned more than two decades.

After that, O’Brien was contractually obligated not to appear on television for six months; in the interim, the redheaded comic took to road in a traveling variety show that came to be called the “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television” tour. Filmmaker Rodman Flender was with him for the duration, and the footage he captured has been edited into a feature documentary called “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop,” which opens this weekend.

Although some critics question what it is that Conan “can’t stop” doing — Whining? Performing? — reviews are, for the most part, positive. More than one reviewer has drawn a comparison between the comic and the King of Pop, who was known to be obsessed with perfection in every aspect of live performance:

“Conan turns out to be something of a closet perfectionist, like the Michael Jackson of late-night television,” says FilmCritic’s Anthony Benigno. Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews agrees: “In its own way, ‘Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop’ resembles ‘Michael Jackson’s This Is It,’ showing us the genesis of a show, the creativity behind it, the behind the scenes drama and the final product,” she writes, “and he’s a lot funnier than Jackson ever was.”

The “honest showbiz documentary” about “one of the funniest men alive” opens in select theaters across the country this weekend. Will you be rooting for Coco?

Also opening this weekend:

» “Cars 2”: The sequel to Pixar’s “Cars” is getting an almost universal thumbs-down from critics, who call the film “a work of disheartening anonymity” that is “tedious, derivative, with little inspiration.” It currently rates a dismal 37 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

» “Bad Teacher”: Cameron Diaz stars in this film about a jilted, foul-mouthed teacher who tries to win the affections of a wealthy substitute with “wild and outrageous schemes.” The film’s been called a “fitfully funny but mostly dull misfire” that “offers a few laughs here and there [but is] far from the head of its class of raunchy, R-rated comedies.”

Find out more by following Trove’s Conan O’Brien, Film Reviews, and Movie Box Office channels.

Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

Movies This Weekend: ‘Super 8’ Goes Back to the Future

Nostalgia. Mystery. Twists. Monsters. J. J. Abrams. These are the ingredients for a summer blockbuster, if the deafening buzz surrounding “Super 8” is any indication.

The highly anticipated film, written and directed by Abrams (of “Lost” and “Cloverfield” fame) and produced by none other than Steven “Inventor of the Summer Blockbuster” Spielberg, tells the story of a group of friends in 1979 rural Ohio who witness a catastrophic train crash while filming a super 8 movie. Following the crash, their small town is plagued by disappearances and a series of inexplicable events. Enter the local deputy (Kyle Chandler) to try and unravel the mystery, and, in an echo of Shyamalanian filmography, they find the truth to be “more terrifying than any of them could have imagined.”

Claudia Piug of USA Today says “Super 8” has “an engrossing plot and a strong cast of fully drawn characters,” adding, “there’s even a sweet youthful love story. In other words, it’s a summer blockbuster firing on all cylinders.” The San Francisco Chronicle’s Rossiter Drake agrees, calling the film “effortlessly entertaining.”

Although some critics see “Super 8” as Abrams’ doe-eyed homage to his mentor and co-producer — one reviewer described the film as “kind of an “E.T.” meets “Cloverfield” meets “The Goonies” — Abrams appears to be “a worthy inheritor” of his predecessor’s legacy.

Also opening this weekend:

» “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer”: A family-friendly kids movie “targeted at young girls that will certainly make them laugh but won’t teach them much” that “is sure to appeal to kids of all ages from 6 to 9 who are female and have no taste or sense of humor.”

For more, check out Trove’s Super 8, Film Reviews, and Movie Box Office channels.

Movies This Weekend: ‘X-Men: First Class’ Gets High Marks

Official Trailer

It’s not often that the fourth installment of a mega-franchise garners praise from both moviegoers and critics alike — “The Fast and the Furious 4”? “Leprechaun 4: Back 2 Tha Hood”? — so the fact that the fourth film in the X-Men series, “X-Men: First Class,” rates as 87 percent “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes is a significant achievement.

The new movie, a prequel to the trilogy, takes place during the Cold War, when the protagonist leaders Professor X and Magneto were Charles and Erik, two friends discovering their superhuman abilities under the threat of nuclear war. In the process, a “grave rift” between them opens, laying the foundation for the rivalry of X-Men and the Brotherhood that underlies the succeeding films.

The critical reception has been overwhelmingly positive. Kurt Loder of Reason Online (and, yes, vintage MTV interviews of Courtney Love) says the film “reboots the wallowing X-Men franchise with a burst of fresh energy and giddy pop invention.” Leonard Maltin notes, “It’s risky to reinvent an established series with a new cast and a different setting than fans are accustomed to … but the folks at Marvel have gambled and won.” And Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post says “X-Men: First Class” “happily delivers on the escapism and rich narrative texture the best of its predecessors have promised.”

This is, in short, not your run-of-the-mill summer blockbuster, heavily reliant on CGI to dazzle and distract popcorn-munching teenagers from a wan storyline and weak script. Although, if the “X-Men” trilogy is any indication, the special effects are unlikely to disappoint.

» Learn more on Trove’s X-Men, Film Reviews, and Movie Box Office channels.

Also opening this weekend:

» “Submarine”: A “quintessential coming of age drama” that “combines dreamy aspiration with mucky, hilarious reality.” Directed by Richard Ayoade.

»“Beginners” : A “beautifully humane, sweet and intelligent movie” that “ranks among the most affectionate and sensitive portraits of homosexuality ever crafted.”

» “Beautiful Boy” : A family drama about two people dealing with the aftermath of an atrocious act committed by their son, which one critic called a “poignant exploration of parental guilt” — although another reviewer thought the film was “contrived and immature.”

Tags: Movies Film X-Men

"It’s a last-frontier thing. … There’s been a long tradition of naked and half naked women in films, so this is a way of upping the ante in terms of erotic explicitness."

— Director-producer Ivan Reitman on the amount of full-frontal male nudity in “The Hangover: Part II,” directed by Todd Phillips, which opens this weekend.

Says The Hollywood Reporter (in a review riddled with spoilers), “Perhaps the most debauched mass global release by a Hollywood studio, the movie showcases an astonishing array of male anatomy.”

» Get more on movies with Trove’s Film channel.

Apps: Games at the Movies

Movie tie-ins are nothing new, so it’s no wonder that super heroes and comics are invading the App Store.

The God of Thunder is staking his claim in “Thor: Son of Asgard.” Andrew Koziara at Appolicious is pleasantly surprised: “I was compelled to play on just so I could see all the wondrous worlds of Thor’s universe.” J.R. Bookwalter at Mac|Life concurs, saying that the game “comes to life with an original story and script written by Marvel writer Bryan J.L. Glass.” For $4.99, it’s cheaper than popcorn and soda at the movies.

We can’t wait to see what the game creators have in store for the upcoming “X-Men: First Class" and "Green Lantern" flicks.

Other notable apps…

» If you want to create your own comics, check out “Comic Life" ($7.99). Enhanced by a recent redesign, the app is a fast and easy way to create photo comics. Who knows, maybe your creation could someday find its way to the silver screen.