Critics Consensus: Final Destination 5 Sorta Thrills, The Help Inspires

Plus, 30 Minutes or Less misses the mark, while Glee 3D is toe-tapping fun.

This week at the movies, we've got deadly premonitions (Final Destination 5, starring Nicholas D'Agosto and Emma Bell); a wacky bank heist (30 Minutes or Less, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Danny McBride); societal change (The Help, starring Viola Davis and Emma Stone); and Gleek mania (Glee: The 3D Concert Movie, starring Lea Michele and Chris Colfer). What do the critics have to say?

Final Destination 5

61%

Listen up, Final Destination fans: we've got good news, and we've got bad news. The good news first: the critics say Final Destination 5 is probably the best entry in the series, with tense, well-crafted set pieces that provide some welcome freshness to the franchise's signature Rube Goldberg-esque kills. The bad news: critical success is relative here, since the Final Destination movies aren't exactly rife with interesting characters or tight plotting. Once again, a group of attractive young people survive a horrible disaster (this time on a collapsing bridge) and once again the hand of fate picks them off in diabolical ways. However, this time there's an interesting twist: if those marked for death can kill some random innocent person, they can delay the Grim Reaper's scythe. The pundits say Final Destination 5 boasts better craftsmanship and more genuine suspense than previous installments, but it's still bogged down by its devotion to formula, and the actors - game as they may be - are merely cogs in the machine. (Check out this week's Total Recall, in which we run down some of cinema's most memorable dead teenager movies.)

30 Minutes or Less

45%

There are plenty of good movies about criminal ineptitude - check out the Coen Brothers' oeuvre for examples -- but it's a thin line between riotous farce and grim villainy. And critics say 30 Minutes or Less never quite walks that tightrope -- despite some maniacally funny scenes, it's tonally all over the place, and never quite as tight as it should be. Based upon (pretty horrific) true events, 30 Minutes or Less tells the story of Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), a pizza-delivery guy who's forcefully enlisted to rob a bank with a bomb strapped to his chest by a pair of wannabe criminals. Thereafter, Nick must dodge the cops and the crooks while working out his personal problems. The pundits say 30 Minutes or Less has moments of absurd hilarity and some interesting twists, but it's pretty uneven, jarringly shifting from goofy laughs to brutal violence to sentimentality without finding a consistent tone. (Check out Crime Doesn't Pay, our feature on some of the dumbest criminals in the movies.)

The Help

76%

Kathryn Stockett's bestselling 2009 novel The Help, which chronicles the close relationship between three very different women in Jim Crow-era Mississippi, quickly became a book-club favorite, so a movie adaptation was inevitable. Fortunately, critics say The Help largely succeeds - it's moving and heartfelt, and features such terrific acting that its missteps are easy to forgive. Aibileen (Viola Davis) works as a maid for white families and is mourning the recent death of her son; she's close friends with Minny (Octavia Spencer), whose outspokenness has hurt her employability as a domestic. Meanwhile, Skeeter (Emma Stone), a well-to-do college grad and an aspiring writer, is troubled by the disappearance of the black maid who helped raise her, and turns to Aibileen and Minny to learn more about their underappreciated lives and labors. The pundits say The Help sometimes sugarcoats the ugliness of its era, but the performers - particularly Davis - are so outstanding that the film works as a poignant, inspirational tale of empathy and understanding.

Glee: The 3D Concert Movie

60%

Glee has a dedicated primetime audience, and the songs from the show have dominated the pop charts. So how does the gang from McKinley High do in its big screen, three-dimensionally enhanced debut? Pretty well, say critics, who call Glee: The 3D Concert Movie an infectious, toe-tapping experience that successfully distills the show's equal-opportunity exuberance for multiplex consumption. Glee documents the cast in performance at the Meadowlands, giving fans an up-close-and-personal view of the New Directions crew as they belt out pop favorites from the likes of Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, and, um, Men Without Hats. The Pundits say Glee may not convert nonbelievers into diehard Gleeks, but it's still mightily entertaining, with plenty of showstopping songs, some backstage banter, and an egalitarian spirit that's tough to resist.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Senna, a documentary about the life and death of the Formula One legend, is Certified Fresh at 94 percent.
  • Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow, a documentary portrait of artist Anselm Kiefe and his large-scale works, is at 86 percent.
  • Scheherazade Tell Me a Story, about an Egyptian talk show host whose outspoken political views threaten her husband's career, is at 83 percent.
  • Littlerock, an indie drama about a small town as seen through the eyes of a pair of Japanese tourists, is at 83 percent.

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