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Tag: Critical Mass (1-10 of 25)

Critical Mass: Kevin Costner gets back in the game with 'Draft Day'

Judging from the massive television audiences that tune in for college and NFL football, you might think that football movies would be an easy sell at the American box office. They’re not — and making matters worse, fans who pay to see football in the theater often have to settle for fictional teams, like the Miami Sharks and the North Dallas Bulls, because the NFL doesn’t often play ball with Hollywood.

So give Draft Day credit. It not only got league permission — with sports all-star Kevin Costner playing the embattled general-manager of the downtrodden Cleveland Browns — but the NFL endorsed the film wholeheartedly, with game footage, access, and even a cameo from its commissioner. This is a total NFL joint, and it looks as slick as a Steve Sabol production. READ FULL STORY

Critical Mass: Is 'Captain America' the hero we deserve?

Summer doesn’t begin until June 21, but blockbuster season begins today with the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This time around, Chris Evans’ 1940s super-soldier finds himself in a 1970s paranoid political thriller set in post-9/11 Washington, D.C. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the first superhero film since the terrorist-inflected The Dark Knight that plugs you right into what’s happening now,” writes EW’s Owen Gleiberman. READ FULL STORY

Critical mass: Smooth sailing or angry seas for 'Noah'?

Darren Aronofsky’s bold biblical epic Noah is sure to get different types of people talking for different reasons. The Black Swan director faithfully follows the message of the slim biblical text in the Book of Genesis, but he fills the gaps with spectacular CG effects, Tolkien-esque creatures, and a daring 21st-century point of view on evolution and environmentalism. Some parts of the world have already blanched at the film, presumably for the liberties Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel take with the sacred tale, but secular audiences and even some religious types might find themselves simply thinking… “Cool.” READ FULL STORY

Critical mass: Not much divergence in reviews of 'Divergent'

The template seems simple enough: adapt a best-selling dystopian YA book with a dynamic female heroine, sit back, and start counting the moolah. Lionsgate is wisely trying to replicate the billion-dollar success of Jennifer Lawrence and The Hunger Games with Divergent, another potential franchise based on Veronica Roth’s trilogy and starring Shailene Woodley.

Of course, Woodley’s Tris isn’t the first girl-power character to follow Katniss’ footsteps — but she is the most promising after disappointments like Mortal Instruments and The Host. In Roth’s novels, Tris is the rare renaissance gal from a rigidly divided skill-based society that sorts citizens into five camps based on personality traits, like bravery (Dauntless), intelligence (Erudite), or selflessness (Abnegnation). Tris, who was raised Abnegnation, qualifies for three camps, making her a “divergent” threat to the status quo, represented by Kate Winslet’s icy Erudite leader. “The future belongs to those who know where they belong,” she tells the nervous teens at their Choosing Ceremony.

Fortunately, Tris has some help from Dauntless, which is the daredevil group she surprisingly elects to join. Theo James plays her smoldering and mysterious teacher, Four, whom EW’s Owen Gleiberman compares to an “unflaky James Franco with a surly hint of T-shirt-era Brando; he brings off the neat trick of playing a hardass who is also a heartthrob.”

Divergent has been a great hope, especially since it nabbed the critically acclaimed Woodley (The Descendants) for the lead role and has Winslet’s glower-power to keep things interesting. The most passionate fans rushed out to see Thursday-night screenings — grossing an impressive $4.9 million overnight — and a sequel, Insurgent, is already on the way. But is Divergent any good? Click below to see what Gleiberman and other critics are saying about the movie before you head to the theater.
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Critical Mass: Can Greece lightning strike twice in '300: Rise of an Empire'?

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The first 300 was an uncompromising paean to glorious graphic-novel imagery, infused with music-video sensibility and CGI magic. Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s bloody tale, which chronicles the Spartans’ noble defeat at Thermopylae in 480 B.C., splattered the box office in 2007, grossing $201.6 million and making Gerard Butler’s abs more famous than Gerard Butler. 300: Rise of the Empire is a prequel, sequel, and side-quel to that tale.

Butler’s King Leonidas is dead, but Athens’ general Themistokles (Strike Back‘s Sullivan Stapleton) rallies the fractured Greeks at sea against the invading Persian armada, led by Artemisia, a vengeful Greek orphan played with relish by Eva Green. The pre-se-side-quel explains her defection to the Persians, as well as her stepbrother’s (Rodrigo Santoro) transformation from heir to the throne into the giant golden god Xerxes after his father is killed in battle.

Snyder co-wrote the script, but he handed the camera to Noam Murro, a commercial actor who also directed Smart People. That 2008 dramedy, starring Dennis Quaid and Ellen Page, was short on decapitations and homo-eroticism, but he’s clearly up to speed on both for this assignment. “Murro uses 3-D to up the wow factor even further [than Snyder's razzle-dazzle Spartan bloodfest],” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty. “There’s so much crimson gore flying off the screen you feel as if you should be wearing a tarp like the folks in the front row of a Gallagher show.”

To paraphrase Leonidas, “This! Is! SPARTA!… Sorta.” Same splashy violence, with a dash of S&M that will surely land Green multiple MTV Movie Award nominations. Click below to see what some of the nation’s leading film critics are saying about Rise of an Empire before heading to the theater. READ FULL STORY

Critical Mass: Does Liam Neeson's 'Non-Stop' crash or soar?

January and February are traditionally regarded as dumping grounds for Hollywood’s lesser movies — the time when studios release the films not good enough for Oscar season and not promising enough for the summer box office. But with a surprising string of winter action hits, beginning with 2009′s Taken, that window might also be termed Neeson Season. “Neeson’s imposing 6’4” frame, haunted eyes, and knack for snapping limbs like celery stalks have elevated throwaways such as Unknown, The Grey, and Taken 2 into something more than the sum of their parts,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty. “They may not all be memorable films, but they’d be utterly forgettable without the high-gloss patina of a class that he gives them.” Twenty years after playing Oskar Schindler, the 61-year-old Irish actor is the star of his own B-movie sub-genre, and in Non-Stop, he gets to take the gimmick to new heights.

Neeson plays Bill Marks, a sad air marshal whose transatlantic flight from New York to London is interrupted by a text message threatening to kill a passenger every 20 minutes unless $150 million is wired to an offshore account. Everyone is a suspect, including Marks. Might it be the pretty businesswoman with the window seat, played by Julianne Moore? The macho NYPD cop played by House of Cards‘ Corey Stoll? The other air-marshal on board, played by Anson Mount? Or is it one of the other dozen or so possible suspects? Suspense!

Reuniting Neeson with his Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra, the film also stars Downton Abbey‘s Michelle Dockery as a skeptical flight attendant, with 12 Years a Slave‘s Lupita Nyong’o also making a before-she-was-famous appearance.

Click below to see what some of the nation’s leading film critics are saying about Non-Stop before buckling in for Neeson’s latest.

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Critical mass: 'Pompeii' doesn't exactly blow the critics away

The thing I find most surprising about Pompeii is that there aren’t two rival Pompeii movies. The Paul W.S. Anderson movie has the look and feel of Deep Impact/Armageddon and Volcano/Dante’s Peak (though, believe it or not, Roman Polanski was once attached to direct).

Alas, Pompeii has the field to itself, a big-budget 3-D disaster epic that lands smack in the box-office dead zone of February. It’s just crazy enough to work!

Game of Thrones‘ Kit Harington plays Milo, a Roman slave-turned-gladiator who catches the eye of an upper-class beauty (Emily Browning) who in turn is promised to the corrupt Roman politician (Kiefer Sutherland) who butchered his family. Conflict! Harrington sculpted his body to look the part of a gladiator, but EW’s Owen Gleiberman thinks Russell Crowe’s Maximus from Gladiator isn’t in danger of being surpassed anytime soon, writing, “Harington knows how to handle a broadsword, but mostly he comes off as the British Taylor Kitsch, a glorified fashion model striking Blue Steel poses that smolder, boringly.”

There also happens to be the looming destruction bubbling up from Mount Vesuvius, the Italian volcano that annihilated Pompeii in 79 A.D. The critics are mixed on whether the volcano is the film’s villain or hero. Click below to see what they’re saying about Pompeii before heading to the theaters this weekend. READ FULL STORY

Critical Mass: Is 'About Last Night' a hit? At this point... we don't know!

When you wake up tomorrow morning, the day after Valentine’s Day, will you be talking About Last Night?

It’s 1980s flashback at the cinema this weekend, with RoboCop, Endless Love, and About Last Night getting 21st-century updates. The latter is perhaps the most promising since it’s an ideal date movie on a sweetheart holiday, there’s nostalgic fondness for the 1986 version with Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, and it features the popular hysterics of Kevin Hart, whose recent film, Ride Along, just surpassed $100 million at the box office. “When About Last Night is funny, which is every so often, it’s because of Kevin Hart,” writes EW’s Owen Gleiberman. “He now owns the fastest mouth in movie comedy, and he knows how to employ his whole high-pitched Chris Tucker street-fury style so that it expresses something more humane than it did when Tucker was ruling the screen with it.”

Based on David Mamet’s 1974 play Sexual Perversity in Chicago, directed by Steve Pink (Hot Tub Time Machine) and written by Bachelorette writer/director Leslye Headland, the new About Last Night shifts to Los Angeles, casts an African-American quartet that includes Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, and Joy Bryant, but essentially follows the same beats as the 1986 film. Click below to see if the nation’s critics think it’s worth the price of two tickets. READ FULL STORY

Critical Mass: Can 'The LEGO Movie' really be THAT good?

Moms and Dads: Get your kids to take you to see The LEGO Movie this weekend!

That seems to be the message from the nation’s movie critics, who have uniformly crowned this 3-D toy story the brilliant hybrid offspring of Pixar’s best infused with South Park‘s irreverent humor. Based on the ubiquitous lock-block toy and licensed with many of pop-culture’s most ubiquitous heroes, The LEGO Movie is a sly Trojan horse of a movie. “Using the building-block world of LEGO to parody the creeping conformity of our world, The LEGO Movie proves even more biting than WALL-E, because it has the sauciness to send up its own rise-of-a-hero story line,” writes EW’s Owen Gleiberman.

Parks and Rec‘s Chris Pratt voices Emmet, a typical LEGO drone who accidentally stumbles upon a LEGO piece that makes a band of Matrix-like revolutionaries think he’s the Special, the one who can save their world from the fascist President Business (Will Ferrell). Emmet has some high-profile allies, including Batman (Will Arnett), Superman (Channing Tatum), Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte), Wonder Woman (Cobie Smulders), and Shaquille O’Neal, as well as the beautiful rebel Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and the sage mystic Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman).

Written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the duo behind the first Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, The LEGO Movie is a clever combination of stop-motion animation and ingenuous CG effects — fire, water — all made to resemble stop-motion. Toss in the ironic Tegan and Sara anthem to conformity, Everything Is Awesome, and your inner-nerd child has plenty to play with.

Before you head to the theaters, read what some of the nation’s top critics are saying about The LEGO Movie. (Or just go see it before they hype it beyond realistic expectations.) READ FULL STORY

Critical Mass: Is 'Labor Day' a peach? Or the pits?

Typically, it’s not considered savvy to open a movie on Super Bowl weekend, what with more than 100 million spending their Sunday afternoon on their sofa, eating nachos, guac, and buffalo wings in front of the Big Game. But Jason Reitman’s Labor Day might qualify as counter-programming. Based on Joyce Maynard’s 2009 novel, the film tells the melodramatic story of a fragile divorcee (Kate Winslet) whose rare excursion out of her house and into town with her 13-year-old son (Gattlin Griffith) is hijacked by an escaped fugitive (Josh Brolin) who demands refuge. But while he looks threatening, he’s a mild soul, and before long, he’s just what the boy and his mother are looking for: a father-figure and a man of the house.

“Once back at the house, Frank ties up Adele, pausing to tenderly caress her foot before spoon-feeding her some chili that he’s whipped up in the kitchen,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty. “At this point, even the most voracious reader of Harlequin romances might let out an embarrassed titter. But that’s just a warm-up for what comes next: the peach pie. Ay-yi-yi, the peach pie.”

The peach-pie scene aims to do for pastry what Ghost did for clay, and viewers will either swoon or eye-roll. The earnest romance is a departure for Reitman, the director best known for Juno and Up in the Air, but with another powerful female performance and supporting cast (Tobey Maguire, J.K. Simmons, Clark Gregg, James Van Der Beek), Super Bowl Sunday doesn’t have to be all about football.

Before you head to the theater, read what some of the nation’s leading critics are saying about Labor Day. READ FULL STORY

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