This week at the movies brings just one new wide release: Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island, a psychological thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Kingsley. It's inevitable that a new Martin Scorsese movie will be greeted rapturously by film buffs -- and will inevitably be compared, fairly or not, to his past triumphs. Critics say Shutter Island is unquestionably the work of a cinematic maestro, but it's also a second-tier effort in the man's career. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a U.S. marshal investigating a patient's disappearance from a remote hospital for the criminally insane; however, it quickly becomes clear that things aren't quite as they seem. Most pundits say Shutter Island is masterfully crafted and atmospherically creepy; however, others find it somewhat bloodless, a solid B-movie that lacks the master's touch.
This week at the movies, we've got modern love (Valentine's Day, starring Jennifer Garner and Ashton Kutcher); a teenage demigod (Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, starring Logan Lerman and Uma Thurman); and some hair-raising horror (The Wolfman, starring Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins). What do the critics have to say? Looking for a tasty cinematic bon-bon for Valentine's Day? One that explores modern romance and features a staggering array of stars? Well, tough luck. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is unabashedly attempting to become a teen fantasy franchise along the lines of Harry Potter. And critics say that although this opening installment is a few notches below its Hogwarts rival, it's a largely diverting, occasionally electrifying family adventure. The Wolfman is one of horror cinema's most iconic -- and tortured -- anti-heroes. Unfortunately, The Wolfman is a mostly tepid update of the famed lycanthrope.
This week at the movies, we've got Gallic gunplay ( From Paris With Love, starring John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and some sad pen pals (Dear John, starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried). What do the critics have to say? It's been a while since a good cop-buddy action flick has hit screens, a situation that critics say From Paris with Love does little to alleviate. Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as a low-level CIA agent who's thrilled to be assigned to a career-making case. If you're in the mood for a tearjerker - or, perhaps a tear-yanker - any movie adapted from a Nicolas Sparks novel will probably do the job (The Notebook and A Walk to Remember are based on his books). But critics say Dear John is overly sappy and melodramatic.
This week at the movies, we've got an angry detective (Edge of Darkness, starring Mel Gibson and Ray Winstone) and a Roman holiday (When in Rome, starring Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel). What do the critics have to say? It's been nearly a decade since Mel Gibson has played a leading role onscreen. And critics say the reason Edge of Darkness works as well as it does is Gibson's presence, which elevates the film above a run-of-the-mill revenge thriller. When in Rome attempts to meld romantic comedy and fairy tale tropes into a picturesque travelogue. However, critics say this long-delayed would-be confection is hardly worth the trip - it's a forced and unconvincing attempt at whimsy that falls flat.
This week at the movies, we've got a muscular molar collector (The Tooth Fairy, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Ashley Judd), a race against time (Extraordinary Measures, starring Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser); and some angry angels (Legion, starring Paul Bettany and Dennis Quaid). What do the critics have to say? Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson hasn't been in a lot of good movies, but he has an easygoing appeal that's hard not to like. However, critics say The Rock's likeability can only go so far when it's stranded in a family flick as middling and unambitious as The Tooth Fairy. At a time when the debate of health care dominates the news cycle, Extraordinary Measures benefits from timeliness - as well as the presence of such dependable actors as Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser. Where the film falls short, critics say, is in its execution.
This week at the movies, we've got Biblical bloodshed (The Book of Eli, starring Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman); neighborhood intrigue (The Spy Next Door, starring Jackie Chan and George Lopez); and life after death (The Lovely Bones, starring Saoirse Ronan and Mark Wahlberg). What do the critics have to say? For those who like their religious parables with plenty of fire and brimstone, The Book of Eli should be up your alley. That said, most critics say Eli is a bit of a muddle. Not since the days of Buster Keaton has anyone combined slapstick comedy with astonishing stunt work quite like Jackie Chan. However, critics say his talents are risibly misused in The Spy Next Door.
This week at the movies, we've got a vampire virus (Daybreakers, starring Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe); a romantic road trip (Leap Year, starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode); and a teenage wasteland (Youth in Revolt, starring Michael Cera and Portia Doubleday). What do the critics have to say? Given the recent glut of vampire flicks, Daybreakers needs a little something extra to stand out -- a healthy dose of dystopia, maybe? Well, critics say the result is a skillful B-movie that should please both horror and action fans. Amy Adams is darned likable. However, critics say her winsome screen presence can only go so far in redeeming the predictable, laugh-deficient romantic comedy Leap Year. Nobody plays a sensitive nebbish quite like Michael Cera. But can he play cool? Smooth? The critics say Youth in Revolt benefits greatly from Cera's dual performance.
The final week of the year brings no wide releases, but Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or winner The White Ribbon hits theaters in limited release. What do the critics have to say? Michael Haneke's films are not for the faint of heart. Best known in the United States for Cache and Funny Games, the Austrian maestro makes haunting thrillers that burn into your psyche. Critics say his latest, the Certified Fresh The White Ribbon, ranks among his very best. Set in a small German town in the days before World War I, the film tells the tale of a series of horrible events that at first seem random -- until it appears there's a sinister explanation. The critics say The White Ribbon is hypnotic, disturbing, and ultimately thought-provoking -- another fine effort from a director that refuses to compromise his unsettling vision.
This week at the movies, we've got a legendary detective (Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law); matriculating rodents (Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, starring David Cross and Jason Lee); a middle aged love triangle (It's Complicated, starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin); turbulent business travel (Up in the Air, starring George Clooney and Vera Farmiga); and a directionless director (Nine, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Penelope Cruz). What do the critics have to say? Known for his hyperkinetic lad pictures, Guy Ritchie may not seem like an obvious choice to direct a Sherlock Holmes adaptation, given that 221B Baker St.'s most famous resident is a paragon of sophistication and stateliness. But a little Robert Downey Jr. goes a long way, critics say, and the star's elementary appeal helps to draw us into this 21st century, action-packed update of the legendary detective.
This week at the movies, we've got a strange alien world (James Cameron's Avatar, starring Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana), and a couple on the run (Did You Hear about the Morgans?, starring Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker). What do the critics have to say? Avatar is one of the most hotly anticipated films in years, for a number of reasons: it marks James Cameron's return to fiction filmmaking after a long layoff; its motion capture techniques were the subject of intense pre-release press; and it's the most expensive movie ever made. And now, the verdict is in: critics say Avatar is indeed a visionary picture.
This week at the movies, we've got a Southern-fried fairy tale (The Princess and the Frog, with voice work from Anika Noni Rose and Keith David) and inspiration through rugby (Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon). What do the critics have to say? The Princess and the Frog has gotten plenty of notice for two reasons: it marks Disney's return to traditional cel animation, and it features an African American heroine. However, critics say that it's also a rousing, heart-warming, and likable (though somewhat predictable) movie that works on its own. Sure, Invictus is yet another inspirational sports film, but critics say Clint Eastwood's drama about how sports helped heal South Africa is a strong, well-crafted entry in the genre.
This week at the movies, we've got a fractured family (Everybody's Fine, starring Robert De Niro and Drew Barrymore); a sibling rivalry (Brothers, starring Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal); an inside job (Armored, starring Matt Dillon and Laurence Fishburne); and vampire hilarity (Transylmania, starring Patrick Cavanaugh and James DeBello). What do the critics have to say? Sometimes a film contains such good acting that one is willing to overlook its other faults. One example might be Jim Sheridan's Brothers, a film critics say often works despite being frequently overwrought. Robert De Niro has an intensity and presence that shines through even when he's not playing Travis Bickle/Jake La Motta types. And critics say his measured performance is easily the best thing about Everybody's Fine.
This week at the movies, we've got martial arts mayhem (Ninja Assassin, starring Rain and Naomie Harris); family-friendly hi jinks (Old Dogs, starring John Travolta and Robin Williams); and a post-apocalyptic trek (The Road, starring Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron). What do the critics have to say? It seems that the latest collaboration between the Wachowski brothers (The Matrix Trilogy) and James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) is a bit of a dud, and that the Travolta-Williams pairing in Old Dogs fails to work very effectively, despite the pedigree of its stars. It may be left up to The Road to be the most solid choice at the movies this week, but we'll let you decide for yourselves.
This week at the movies, we've got hot teen vampires (The Twilight Saga: New Moon, starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson); a football family (The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock and Quinton Aaron); and some interplanetary mishaps (Planet 51, with voice work by Dwayne Johnson and Jessica Biel). What do the critics have to say? So far, it looks like the latest installment of the Twilight Saga is failing to resonate with the critics, but that didn't stop the first movie from doing gangbusters at the box office, pleasing all of the book's fans in the process. Sandra Bullock hasn't had much luck this year on the Tomatometer, and that doesn't look to change. And lastly, Planet 51 seems as though it doesn't carry much narrative weight behind those flashy visuals. Read the full article for all the details.
This week at the movies, we've got a global catastrophe (2012, starring John Cusack and Chiwetel Ejiofor) and some rock 'n' roll rebellion (Pirate Radio, starring Philip S. Hoffman and Bill Nighy). What do the critics have to say? Nobody goes to a Roland Emmerich picture expecting art or realism; they go for sheer spectacle. On that level, critics say, 2012 largely delivers. However, they also note that if you enjoy character development, witty dialogue, remotely plausible science, and brevity, you're out of luck. It's an understatement to say that the mid-to-late-1960s was a revolutionary period for British rock music, and Pirate Radio is a fond, celebratory comedy about those heady times. Critics say it may not rock quite hard enough, but it's got enough infectious good humor -- and hummable tunes -- to drown out objections.
This week at the movies, we've got some modern-day Dickens (Disney's A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman); a button-pushing thriller (The Box, starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden); vanishing Alaskans (The Fourth Kind, starring Milla Jovovich and Elias Koteas); and some psychic soldiers (The Men Who Stare at Goats, starring George Clooney and Jeff Bridges). What do the critics have to say? Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is one of literature's most haunting morality tales - and one of the most adapted. Critics are largely split on two key aspects of Robert Zemeckis' motion-capture version starring Jim Carrey: whether it honors the, ahem, spirit of Dickens' classic, and whether the motion-capture technology is aesthetically appealing.
This week at the movies brings only one wide release: the hotly-anticipated performance documentary Michael Jackson's This Is It, which captures the King of Pop in rehearsals for what was to be a comeback tour. What do the critics have to say? Before its release, it was difficult to escape the notion that Michael Jackson's This Is It was little more than a cynical cash-grab -- an attempt to strike at the wallets of the great star's fans after his death precluded a potentially lucrative concert tour. Such concerns may have been unwarranted, however; now that the film's actually here, the critics say it's an intriguing portrait of the artist at work, and a reminder of Jackson's protean talents, as well as a farewell gift to fans.
This week at the movies, we've got an anime hero (Astro Boy, with voice work from Kristen Bell and Nicolas Cage); a vampire war ( Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant, starring Chris Massoglia and John C. Reilly); an aviation pioneer (Amelia, starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere); and gore galore (Saw VI, starring Costas Mandylor and Mark Rolston). What do the critics have to say? Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy is one of anime's most iconic and venerable characters. Now he's getting the big-screen CGI treatment, and the result, critics say, is an energetic but derivative affair. In the film, Astro Boy is a young robot with super powers who learns, slowly but surely, what it means to be human; he also must protect his new-found friends from danger.
This week, we've got a wild rumpus (Where the Wild Things Are, starring Max Records and Catherine Keener), a legal skirmish (Law Abiding Citizen, starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler), and some unconventional parenting (The Stepfather, starring Dylan Walsh and Sela Ward). What do the critics have to say? Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are is one of the most beloved classics of modern children's literature, but the brief text doesn't necessarily lend itself to feature-length cinematic treatment. Critics have largely praised Spike Jonze for maintain the spirit of the book while adding some visually daring touches to bring it to life; however, some feel the narrative is a little thin.
This week at the movies brings only one wide release: Couples Retreat, starring Vince Vaughn and Kristen Bell in a comedy about a group of friends in marriage counseling in a tropical locale. What do the critics have to say? Couples Retreat contains some of the funniest actors in the business, and is set in a lush island paradise. Sounds like the recipe for a good time, right? Unfortunately, the critics say Couples Retreat is essentially a series of gags sorely in need of some over-arching comic discipline. Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell star as a couple whose relationship is in trouble, so they invite a group of married friends (including Vince Vaughn, Jon Farveau, Kristen Davis, and Malin Ackerman) to a resort for their counseling sessions -- and it turns out the whole gang is required to undergo treatment as well.