Critics Consensus: Lawless Is Violent and Atmospheric

Plus, The Possession is mostly scare-free, and The Oogieloves in The Big Balloon Adventure is more weird than enchanting.

This week at the movies, we've got bootlegging brothers (Lawless, starring Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy), a bedeviled box (The Possession, starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick), and some bewitching balloons (The Oogieloves in The Big Balloon Adventure, featuring Toni Braxton and Christopher Lloyd). What do the critics have to say?

Lawless

67%

Director John Hillcoat (The Road) has carved out a niche as a filmmaker skilled at wringing empathy from bleak and bloody scenarios. Critics say his latest, Lawless, is brilliantly acted and evocatively atmospheric, which helps it to overcome the script's sometimes slack narrative. Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy star as Prohibition-era bootleggers whose business is threatened both by rival hooch-makers and crooked cops who want a cut of their profits. A wave of violence ensues. The pundits say Lawless' plot occasionally meanders, but it's viscerally powerful and features fine performances from a top-notch cast. (Check out this week's Total Recall, in which we count down co-star Gary Oldman's best-reviewed movies.)

The Possession

40%

Plenty of horror flicks have ripped off The Exorcist, so The Possession earns points for injecting a dash of Jewish mysticism into the bedeviled-tot subgenre. Otherwise, critics say, this is a pretty ho-hum frightfest, and despite strong performances and smooth direction, it's both clichéd and light on scares. Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars as a divorced dad who's unsettled by his young daughter's obsession with an antique wooden box purchased at a yard sale, which contains a malevolent spirit from Jewish folklore. The pundits say The Possession is a little better than many of its ilk, but it's still a pretty by-the-numbers supernatural thriller. (Check out 24 Frames for a pictorial rundown of cursed movie items.)

The Oogieloves in The Big Balloon Adventure

27%

If you've got (really) little kids, there's a decent chance they'll enjoy The Oogieloves in The Big Balloon Adventure, a colorful, sweet family musical. However, critics say grown-ups may find this odd slice of juvenilia to be overly saccharine and pretty far from toe-tapping. The plot: the Oogieloves are planning a birthday party for a friend, but complications ensue when their magical balloons fly away. Our heroes embark on a quest to retrieve the balloons, and team up with likes of Toni Braxton, Christopher Lloyd, and Cloris Leachman for some musical numbers along the way. The pundits say The Oogieloves is gentle and well-intentioned, but the songs are forgettable and the whole enterprise is more weird than enchanting.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The Bullet Vanishes, a period mystery about a murder investigation in 1930s China, is at 100 percent.
  • The Ambassador, a gonzo documentary about a man who impersonates a diplomat with the expressed intention of smuggling blood diamonds out of the Central African Republic, is at 74 percent.
  • For a Good Time, Call..., starring Seth Rogen and Ari Graynor in a comedy about a pair of cash-strapped roommates who work as phone-sex operators, is at 66 percent.
  • The Good Doctor, starring Orlando Bloom as a young resident who becomes obsessed with a beautiful patient, is at 60 percent.
  • Tsui Hark's The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, starring Jet Li as the leader of a group of fighters defending the people from a tyrannical leader, is at 56 percent.
  • Little Birds, starring Juno Temple and Leslie Mann in a drama about two teenage girls who leave their depressed small town for a turbulent big city experience, is at 50 percent.
  • The Tall Man, starring Jessica Biel in a horror film about a woman who searches frantically for her missing son, is at 44 percent.
  • One Day On Earth, a documentary that chronicles a single day from every country on the planet, is at 43 percent.
  • The Day, starring Shawn Ashmore and Ashley Bell in a post-apocalyptic thriller about a group of friends attempting to fend off cannibals, is at 29 percent.
  • Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy, a drama about a young man who has to decide between clubbing and love, is at six percent.

Finally, props to Richard Dempsy for coming the closest to guessing The Apparition's two percent Tomatometer.

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