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Tag: Critical Mass (1-10 of 39)

Critical Mass: Can 'The Maze Runner' find a way out of the YA wilderness?

Expectations for The Maze Runner, the latest YA best-seller turned franchise wannabe, seemed low, so much so that critical faint praise suddenly feels like a ringing endorsement. “Don’t let that YA tag put you off,” says EW’s Chris Nashawaty, in his review. “There isn’t a dying heroine or hunky vampire to be found anywhere in this better-than-average adaptation of the James Dashner bestseller. Just a bunch of confused kids on the run from a mysterious organization known as W.C.K.D.

Based on Dashner’s 2007 post-apocalyptic novel, the first chapter of a trilogy that includes The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure, The Maze Runner is about a Lord of the Flies community of teen boys called Gladers who are trapped in a maze by unclimbable walls and lethal, giant spider-like creatures called Grievers. Each month, another boy is deposited within the walls, with no memory of his life before that moment besides his name. But when Thomas (Teen Wolf‘s Dylan O’Brien) arrives, his ability as a Runner to safely navigate the maze opens the possibility for escape and the answers behind their mysterious incarceration.

Will Poulter (We’re the Millers) plays Gally, the tribe’s enforcer who’s suspicious of Thomas’ gifts, and Kaya Scodelario (The Skins) plays the pretty girl—the only girl—who’s dropped into their midst and has clues about Thomas’s past. First-time director Wes Ball, a visual-effects guru who was hired on the basis of an 8-minute short titled Ruin, has seemingly accomplished his mission: The Maze Runner is no Beautiful Creatures or The Host. Thomas could live to run another day.

Read more from EW’s review, as well as a roundup of other notable critics, below. READ FULL STORY

Critical Mass: Most 'Expendables 3' reviews not in on the joke

The Expendables franchise still has some muscle, but its biggest challenge moving forward might be finding new recruits that can provide the same charge for fans of 1980s action movies. In the original film, the draw was the Big Three: Sly, Arnold, and Bruce Willis together, blowing things up old-school. This time around, they’re joined by Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, and Kelsey Grammer, among others. (Tom Selleck, limber up.)

But the latest Expendables adventure does have a secret weapon, a scenery-chewing villain who is worth a dirty dozen or more middle-aged action stars: Mel Gibson. “Whatever you might think of Gibson, let’s at least acknowledge that it’s a pretty inspired idea to cast him as a villain in a big, splashy summer movie,” writes EW‘s Chris Nashawaty, in his review. “The actor seems to understand this better than anyone and he plays up his sadistic, loose-cannon villainy like he’s on a Hawaiian vacation. He’s an unrepentant baddie tossing off manic arias of profanity and dishing out bareknuckle beat downs. In a way, he’s the perfect movie villain—someone we can all feel good about loathing. And for the record, he’s excellent.”

Expendables 3 knows its audience, and the team’s mission is clear. Sylvester Stallone’s ringleader is still shredded, Arnold still puffs on his stogie, and filling the absent Willis’s shoes—at least in nostalgia value—is Harrison Ford’s CIA fixer. The franchise is about creative destruction—or just destruction—and the old-school casting has single-handedly made the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game moot. Hmmm… Kevin Bacon would make a great Expendables 4 villain.

Read more from EW’s review, as well as a roundup of other notable critics, below.

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
“Let me just say that this latest rah-rah red-meat installment is the biggest and best surprise of the series. It has its flaws, but it’s mostly a big, dumb, gruntingly monosyllabic hoot.”

Justin Chang (Variety) ▼
“You need The Expendables 3 like you need a kick in the crotch… It’s an obvious, half-hearted ploy to keep the beleaguered series going, when it would be far wiser to heed one character’s advice: ‘You know, I’m getting out of this business and so should you.'” READ FULL STORY

Critical Mass: Can the 'Ninja Turtles' shred the critics?

You can be sure of two things when you combine producer Michael Bay with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. One, your eyeballs will get a workout. And two, the most snarky critics will be tempted to write their reviews before the film even rolls.

In Wrath of the Titans‘ director Jonathan Liebesman’s new live-action, CG-heavy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which stars Megan Fox as Turtle-pal April O’Neil, the four Renaissance-named turtles are still living up their name. Johnny Knoxville voices Leonardo, who leads the Turtles against their traditional antagonist Shredder—as well as a mysterious puppet-master who springs chaos on New York. Will Arnett plays April’s loyal cameraman, who harbors a crush on his much-younger co-worker at the TV-news station, and William Fichtner plays a brilliant scientist who knows a bit about where the turtles possibly came from.

Fox’s updated, curvier April and the film’s PG-13 rating reflect one common complaint—that the filmmakers forgot their target audience. “Is it the kids drawn to the hit animated Nickelodeon reboot or the middle-aged crowd looking to reconnect with yet another thing they loved in their youth?” asks EW‘s Kyle Anderson in his review. “The filmmakers never came up with a resolution, which is why we have a reported $125 million effects parade with a crippling identity problem.”

To be fair, that’s pretty snark-free critique.

Read more from EW’s review, as well as a roundup of other notable critics, below. READ FULL STORY

Critical Mass: The drug-fueled mayhem of 'Lucy' has a buzz

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Luc Besson loves his lady warriors. Beginning with the original La Femme Nikita, and then in action movies like The Professional, The Fifth Element, and The Messenger, he’s introduced his own brand of memorable action heroines. Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy might be the most hardcore of the bunch. She goes from party girl to super-evolved sorceress when the experimental drug an Asian gangster has smuggled in her body spills into her bloodstream, raising her brain activity to 100 percent capacity. “Lucy is a thinly drawn character, just someone who needs to survive,” writes EW‘s Jeff Labrecque. “But Johansson vividly conveys the initial terror of her dire circumstances before shifting into the calculating, almost robotic mode of an alien being flicking away mere mortals.”

Only one person might be able to help Lucy before she’s fried by the drug’s intellectual fuse. No, not God, but close: Morgan Freeman. The Oscar-winning actor plays the world’s top neuroscientist, and even if Lucy’s mushrooming intelligence dwarfs his own, he at least will be able to help audiences understand just what the heck is going on onscreen.

Read more from EW’s review, as well as a roundup of other notable critics, below. READ FULL STORY

Critical Mass: Is this a 'Sex Tape' you'd pay to see?

Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz are back together again. After starring in Bad Teacher, the 2011 comedy hit that topped $100 million, they reunite to play a married couple who’ve lost their spark. Kids, work, and age have taken their toll on what was once a spontaneous and prolific sex life, and Annie and Jay try to get it back by making their own homemade sex tape. But when their video gets uploaded to the Cloud by accident and sent to their friends, neighbors, and even their mailman, they have to race around town to prevent the naughty movie from becoming a scandal.

Directed by Bad Teacher‘s Jake Kasdan and co-starring Rob Lowe, Rob Corddry, and Ellie Kemper, “Sex Tape becomes a caper not unlike Horrible Bosses or We’re the Millers or [insert another Jason Sudeikis movie of your choice here],” writes Leah Greenblatt, in her review. “It’s clumsy and wacky and intermittently amusing.”

Read more from EW’s review, as well as a round-up of other notable critics, below. READ FULL STORY

Critical Mass: Hail, Caesar and 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'

There’s a lot at stake with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: human supremacy on a post-apocalyptic Earth, the well-being of a 45-year-old franchise property… the summer box office.

With ticket sales down across the board, Dawn finds itself in the once unlikely position of summer savior. The 2011 reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which starred James Franco and Andy Serkis as the motion-capture Prometheus ape, Caesar, was a solid critical and popular hit, grossing $176.7 million.

Expectation are much higher for Dawn, which is set 10 years after the events of Rise. Humanity has been devastated by the simian flu, leaving Caesar and his tribe of apes to prosper in the woods outside San Francisco. In the decaying urban landscape, however, are a ragtag group of human survivors, led by Jason Clarke, who wants to live in peace with the intelligent apes, and Gary Oldman, who plays an ape-hating fascist who wants a war while man still has the advantage.

Serkis, once again, is the major star. Since playing Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, he’s become the Olivier of motion-capture, breathing life into pseudo-CG-animated creations like King Kong. With the even more-advanced technology and his finely-tuned artistry, you can expect another flurry of essays urging the Academy to recognize excellence in this growing field. “Despite all the obscuring layers of digital trickery, the actor manages to convey an impressive physicality and array of emotions, from hope to grief to rage,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty, in his review. “I won’t spoil which side wins the interspecies showdown, but when it comes to who does the better acting, the apes carry the day, (hairy) hands down.”

Read more from EW’s review, as well as a round-up of other notable critics, below. READ FULL STORY

Critical Mass: Come for the Transformers, stay for the critics' zingers

Critics have long given Michael Bay and his Transformers franchise the high hat—but after more than $2.7 billion in box office across the globe, the filmmaker can basically thumb his nose at the naysayers who sniff at his brand of CG rock-em, sock-em spectacle. The fourth film, Transformers: The Age of Extinction, is both a sequel and a reboot, with Mark Wahlberg coming aboard to anchor the franchise as a poor Texas inventor who accidentally salvages the remnants of Optimus Prime and gets entangled in a city-leveling war between good and bad alien ‘bots, as well as the secret government agency tasked with hunting down and eliminating the Transformers.

As EW’s film critic Chris Nashawaty writes in his review, “Sitting in the theater, watching the end credits roll on Transformers: Age of Extinction, I was certain of two things: 1. That I’d just witnessed the stupidest movie of the year; and 2. It will make a billion dollars.”

Cha-ching. READ FULL STORY

Critical mass: Does Clint Eastwood's 'Jersey Boys' sing?

Clint Eastwood directing Jersey Boys might be the most odd-coupling of director and musical material since John Huston made Annie. Like Huston, Eastwood has a Broadway hit to rely upon; in fact, he’s even got the Tony-nominated writers and the show’s Tony-winning star, John Lloyd Young as falsetto master Frankie Valli. “With his slicked-back pompadour and wardrobe of sharkskin suits, Young looks more like the late Bruno Kirby than Valli,” says EW’s critic Chris Nashawaty. “But when he opens his mouth, you believe you’re listening to the real deal. He finds every ounce of sweat, aftershave, and salad dressing that made up Valli’s one-of-a-kind voice.”

The story of the Four Seasons, who came up in a rough Italian-American neighborhood in New Jersey and flirted with real danger on their way to fame and fortune, is still a Broadway sensation, and the quartet’s unique and nostalgic sound gives the film a bankable attraction. Eastwood, now 84, leans heavily on the stage show, adapting its Rashomon storytelling style, with frequent fourth-wall-breaking dialogue where the characters give the camera their versions of the truth.

Of the band, the only newcomer to the material is Vincent Piazza (Boardwalk Empire), who plays hot-headed Tommy DeVito, and Christopher Walken plays a godfather, of sorts, who helps the boys when trouble arises.

Read more from EW’s review, as well as a round-up of other notable critics, below. READ FULL STORY

'The Fault in Our Stars': Are those tears of joy, critics?

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Perhaps the people who run studios thought Divergent was the big YA novel to launch Shailene Woodley into the stratosphere, but her performance in the cancer weepie The Fault in Our Stars might be the role that makes her a giant star.

Based on John Green’s 2012 best-seller, director Josh Boone’s movie tells the story of a cynical 16-year-old cancer patient (Woodley), saddled with an oxygen tank and breathing tube, and the more-dynamic, free-spirited remission patient (Ansel Elgort) who falls in love with her. “A generation of teens like [Woodley's character] have been weaned on YA novels, leading to more discerning palates,” EW’s Chris Nashawaty writes in his review. “They can sniff out condescension from a thousand yards. That’s why they’re lucky to have an actress as effortlessly charismatic and natural as 22-year-old Woodley (The Descendants) as their stand-in.”

If you’ve read the book, you know the ending, and if you loved the book, you’re already whimpering. (Beware, fragile souls, the trailer awaits below.) If you’re perhaps older or didn’t read the book, think Love Story and everything that entails — spoilers, schmoilers. As the characters themselves learn, it’s not the ending that counts.

Read more from Nashawaty’s review, as well as a round-up of other notable critics, below. READ FULL STORY

'Edge of Tomorrow': A new day for Tom Cruise?

Every new Tom Cruise movie these days almost demands immediate analysis about what his latest means for him and his career. In the case of Edge of Tomorrow, the science-fiction war movie that weds Starship Troopers with Saving Private Ryan with Groundhog Day, it means a lot of fun. Cruise plays a military mouthpiece whose only job is to sell the war against invading aliens to the public, but when the commanding general (Brendan Gleason) orders him to the front on D-Day, he tries to talk his way out of it, gets demoted, and finds himself dropped on the French beach in the middle of a nightmarish fiasco. He bites it within five minutes, but not before an encounter with one of the alien Mimics leaves him with a special gift — or curse. Every time he dies, he wakes up the day before, in the same place, facing the same circumstances. Little by little, he has to learn how to survive and possibly win the war.

The film, directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) is based on All You Need is Kill, the 2004 novel by Japanese author Hiroshi Sakurazaka. It takes its cues from Groundhog Day, the karmic comedy in which Bill Murray is stuck living the same day over and over again until he finally becomes a selfless human being, as well as modern video games, with their quick-reset learning curve. Emily Blunt plays a cold and calculating war hero who might understand what Cruise’s overmatched soldier is experiencing, and Bill Paxton plays the good ol’ boy sergeant responsible for getting Cruise on the beach.

But c’mon: what does Edge of Tomorrow really mean for Cruise and his career? “He manages to show us why he still matters as a movie star — one of the last in a dinosaur species that once lorded over the multiplex like a colossus,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty. “Whether you loved or merely tolerated his past few efforts as a leading man, he’s never given less than everything he has. He still cares at a time when caring is dismissed as outdated and square.

Guess what? Many of the nation’s leading critics agree. The Edge of Tomorrow might be Cruise’s best movie since Collateral.

Read more from Nashawaty’s review, as well as a round-up of other notable critics, below.

READ FULL STORY

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