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Tag: Critical Mass (1-10 of 42)

Critical Mass: The jury weighs in on 'The Judge'

Stanley Kubrick believed that casting was 80 percent responsible for the failure or success of a film. Put the right actor—not necessarily the best actor—in the right role, and everything has a way of falling into place. The Judge is a father-son courtroom drama featuring a Jaded Lawyer and an Ornery Coot, and it would be difficult to imagine better choices than Robert Downey Jr., who produced the film with his wife, and Robert Duvall.

Downey, in his first real drama since 2009’s The Soloist, “plays the closest thing to a real human being he’s tackled in ages,” writes EW’s critic Chris Nashawaty. “As hotshot Chicago attorney Hank Palmer, Downey is his usual onscreen type—the whip-smart wiseass who’s cynical and selfish… until he’s not.”

Hank is called home for his mother’s funeral, and forced to revisit the scarred relationship he had with his irascible father, an esteemed judge who then finds himself on the wrong end of a murder trial. With his father facing a guilty verdict, Hank insists on leading his legal defense, even as the two men re-fight the battles that have kept them apart for 20 years.

His relationship with the Judge isn’t the only one that Hank has to rebuild. Vera Farmiga plays an old hometown girlfriend that he left behind, and Vincent D’Onofrio and Jeremy Strong play his two brothers.

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

Critical Mass: Does David Fincher deliver the chills of 'Gone Girl' to the screen?

“Marriage is hard work,” says Amy Dunne in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.

The longer one has been married, the greater one understands the meaning behind the phrase “honeymoon period.” In David Fincher’s adaptation of Flynn’s bestseller, the magical romance between Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) has hit the wall five years in. They fall in love in New York City, but when they both lose their magazine jobs and his mother falls ill in Missouri, they move to his hometown and quickly drift apart. How far apart? Nick may have murdered her.

When Amy goes missing on the day of the fifth anniversary, Nick is the primary suspect. The local cops can’t believe all the evidence against him, and any sympathy he initially gets from the news media vanishes once some of his secrets come to light.

Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay, worked hard to translate the he-said/she-said storytelling, and Fincher wrings the most out of the film’s twists and turns—even though millions of readers already know when to expect them. “I can’t guarantee that the film’s ending will work for everyone (it was always my one nit to pick with Flynn’s novel),” writes EW‘s Chris Nashawaty. “But I will say this: Anyone who loved Gone Girl the book will walk out of Gone Girl the movie with a sick grin on their face.”

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

Critical Mass: Denzel gets his hands dirty in 'The Equalizer'

My first question about The Equalizer after seeing the trailer was, “Why even bother calling it The Equalizer?”

After all, it’s not as if The Equalizer—a 1980s CBS detective drama starring Edward Woodward as a Good Samaritan retired intelligence agent—was a brand that still lured audiences. Antoine Fuqua’s violent action movie with Denzel Washington exists in an entirely different universe, the brutal and vengeful cinematic neighborhood of Charles Bronson, Liam Neeson, and Washington himself. Call it The Equalizer or call it Man on Fire 2—this is a Denzel action film, first and last.

The film doesn’t borrow much from the television show, though Washington does play a haunted retired intel agent by the name of Robert McCall. He works at a Boston-area Home Depot-like store, lives modestly in solitude, rides public transportation, and reads classic novels while hanging out at the local 24-hour diner. But when he befriends a diner companion, a neighborhood hooker (Chloë Grace Moretz) who is roughed up by her Russian-mob bosses, he can’t help but put his skills to use. His Russian equivalent (Marton Csokas) is quickly dispatched to Boston to solve the mob’s problem, and from there on, it’s R-rated clobberin’ time.

Washington and Fuqua, who collaborated on Training Day, which won the actor an Oscar, are aiming a little lower this time. “As the ex-CIA operative Bob, now demoted to cutting wood at a Home Mart, Washington can’t suppress his natural gravitas even though the role is meant for a dweebier actor,” writes EW’s Joe McGovern, in his review.

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

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

LUCY-SCARLETT.jpg

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

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