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Tag: Critical Mass (1-10 of 47)

Critical Mass: Will reviews plague 'Exodus'?

“Ridley Scott’s eye-candy spectacle [is] an over-the-top Old Testament epic that’s essentially Gladiator with God,” writes EW‘s Chris Nashawaty. That might serve as both critique and the best advertisement that 20th Century Fox could possibly fathom for Exodus: Gods and Kings. Christian Bale stars as Moses, the Egyptian hero who discovers that his charmed life has been a lie, and that his true destiny is freeing the long-suffering Jewish slaves, who suffer under the heel and whip. Joel Edgerton is Ramses, the narcissistic pharaoh whose heart hardens with every horrible plague that engulfs Egypt, and a slew of famous actors pop up in the background of the Biblical epic.

No spoiler alerts are required, of course. But even though the story is as old as written history, no one will want to miss the end, when a giant wave crushes the Egyptian army, as famously depicted in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 classic, The Ten Commandments. What will that ultimate special effect look and feel like in the hands of a modern CG master like Scott?

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

Critical Mass: 'Wild' about Reese Witherspoon again

The sleeper indie hit Mud was considered a pivot-point for Matthew McConaughey, who was transitioning away from mimbo roles into darker and more complex territory, like his subsequent Oscar-winning performance in Dallas Buyers Club. But Mud also featured another actor at a similar career crossroads: Reese Witherspoon.

In Wild, Witherspoon teams up with McConaughey’s Dallas director Jean-Marc Vallée and writer Nick Hornby to bring Cheryl Strayed’s 1,100-mile-hike memoir to the screen. It’s a savvy career move by the revitalized actress/producer after several years of mediocre choices (Four Christmases? How Do You Know?) that failed to take advantage of her 2006 Oscar win in Walk the Line.

Not unlike Into the Wild and 127 Hours, Wild is a journey into the unknown, both in nature and the human psyche. Cheryl embarks on her solo adventure after her mother (Laura Dern) died, and her grief had sent her on a downward spiral of self-destructive behavior that cost her her marriage. She heads off into the wilderness, completely naive and unprepared for the physical hardships that await, as well as the danger that lurks with every human—mostly male—encounter. “Witherspoon ditches her sunny persona before she laces up her first mountain boot and plays Cheryl with real grit, drawing you in from the opening scene, in which she rips off a battered toenail,” writes EW’s Tina Jordan. “There’s been much talk recently of the 2014 Reese-aissance; Wild is all the proof you need that Witherspoon has indeed found creative rejuvenation.”

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

Critical Mass: 'Mockingjay' reviews hung up on two-part finale

The biggest clash at the movies in this year might not be Katniss against the Capitol, but Katniss against Guardians of the Galaxy. In 2013, Catching Fire was the year’s top grossing movie, and now, with Mockingjay—Part 1, Jennifer Lawrence has a chance to make it two years in a row. Industry analysts are expecting the biggest opening weekend of the year, one that could approach $150 million (though Thursday-night business was soft).

The sequel—the first of two films based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling finale, Mockingjay—picks up right after where Catching Fire concluded. In the end of the previous installment, Katniss’ family and Gale escape, but District 12 is annihilated after she sparks an uprising during the Quarter Quell. In Mockingjay, however, instead of channeling the rage that’s promised, Katniss is suffering from PTSD and reluctant to engage with the spartan society living underground in District 13, which wants her to become the symbol of the fight against President Snow and the Capitol. Julianne Moore joins the franchise as Alma Coin, 13’s steely leader, and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeffrey Wright return as part of her braintrust.

But while Katniss has been rescued from the Hunger Games arena, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has been captured by the Capitol and is being manipulated as the government’s puppet. “In a series of interviews with the sensationalist journalist Caesar (Stanley Tucci), he denounces Katniss and urges a cease-fire,” writes EW‘s Chris Nashawaty. “The betrayal devastates her, forcing her to realize that her feelings for him weren’t a charade after all. With its Wag the Dog subplot and fist-in-the-air proletarianism, Mockingjay may be the most harmlessly Marxist movie to come out of Hollywood since Reds.”

Mockingjay is hardly a poli-sci assignment, but the action and adventure of the first two films, which showcased the spectacle of the Hunger Games, share the stage with more complex themes of the ramifications of what revolution really means. Read more from EW’s review, as well as a roundup of other notable critics, below. READ FULL STORY

Critical Mass: Is 'Dumb and Dumber To' dumb or just plain stupid?

There has been a lot of cinematic nostalgia for 1994 lately, with 20-year celebrations for such classics as Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption. But 1994 was also the year of Dumb and Dumber, a classic of sorts in its own right. Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne were two oblivious nincompoops who have dreams of opening their own worm store, but end up taking a road-trip from Rhode Island to Colorado that lands them in the middle of a kidnapping and ransom scam. The visual gags were side-splitting—those tuxedos, nailing Lauren Holly in the face with a snowball, OUR PETS’ HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!—but there some something magically sweet about just how dumb and dumber the duo really was. “One of the brighter qualities of the works of the Farrelly brothers is how, even in the midst of profane unholiness and toilet humor, a sincere pathos often emerges,” writes EW‘s Jason Clark.

Twenty years later, Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) are practically right where we left them, as if they’d spent two decades in a near-catatonic state. Their hair is the same, their adventure—to locate Harry’s beautiful daughter (Rachel Melvin) in order to find a suitable kidney donor—is familiar, and generous helpings of the Farrelly brothers’ gross-out humor is spread throughout.

It’s a film that is hardly at the mercy of the critics—the first film wasn’t exactly a critical darling—but it’s still worth examining reviews to see if this is a movie you need to see today in theaters or one that can wait for home viewing.

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

Critical Mass: 'Interstellar' aims for the stars

Interstellar features Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Caine, but it’s the rare Hollywood film where the director is the unquestioned star. This is a Christopher Nolan joint, from its epic scope, its tangled storytelling gymnastics, and its unrivaled insistence on NSA-level control and pre-release secrecy. The director, who made his name with the backwards-running Memento, and burnished his reputation with the Dark Knight trilogy and the mind-bending Inception, goes all in with Interstellar, an ambitious tribute to the film that most inspired him: Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. READ FULL STORY

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

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