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Tag: Critical Mass (1-10 of 36)

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

Critical Mass: Are the critics under Angelina Jolie's spell in 'Maleficent'?

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In nearly 80 years of delicious Disney animated villains threatening princesses, nobody’s ever been as truly frightening as Maleficent, the horn-headed sorceress who could transform into a dragon and cursed baby Aurora in 1959′s Sleeping Beauty. But much as Wicked did for the evil witch of The Wizard of Oz, Maleficent digs deeper into the backstory of the sharp-cheeked villainess, with Angelina Jolie bringing her to vivid life.

Of course, such revisionist fairy tales have become increasingly common. As EW’s Keith Staskiewicz notes in his review, “The first line of Maleficent [''Let us tell an old story anew and see how well you know it"] could be emblazoned on a sticker and slapped onto the back-bumper of Hollywood, an industry that has at this point become more interested in recycling than Ed Begley, Jr.”

But with a story credited to Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast) and directed by Avatar production designer Robert Stromberg, Maleficent creates a different beast altogether, all the while staying true to the Disney brand. Elle Fanning plays the princess who really shouldn’t spin thread before turning 16 — but it’s Jolie, of course, that you’re aching to see at the baby’s christening. I’m sure she has her reasons for cursing a child, but I just want to hear that maniacal, echoing laugh.

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

Critical Mass: Is 'X-Men' the best superhero movie of the year?

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The Avengers might have a new nemesis: mutants.

Hollywood politics will likely keep Marvel’s two most-populated superhero franchises on different movie screens for the foreseeable future, but the critics are poised to put Fox’s X-Men on the same pedestal as the Avengers following Days of Future Past. Bryan Singer’s new movie, based on a 1981 comic book that involves time travel and mutant-killing Sentinels, unites the original “present-day” X-Men with their younger selves, introduced in Matthew Vaughn’s stylish 2011 prequel, First Class.

An embarrassment of casting riches unites when Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is sent back to 1973 to change history so that his present isn’t an apocalyptic wasteland. He’s the link between Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen (and Halle Berry and Ellen Page) and the younger crop that includes James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence. “Singer’s return in the pretzel-logic pop fantasia X-Men: Days of Future Past is so triumphant because of how effortless he makes connecting the dots seem,” writes EW’s critic Chris Nashawaty. “It’s an epic that couldn’t be more Byzantine on paper but scans with ease on screen.”

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

Critical Mass: Is 'Neighbors' the season's best comedy?

Most parents would do anything to protect their children from danger. In Neighbors, that danger takes the form of a discarded used condom on a young couple’s front lawn, and the offending party is the raucous fraternity — led by an ab-fab Zac Efron — that just moved in next door. Seth Rogen and Bridemaids‘ Rose Byrne play the young suburban couple whose lives are upended by the frat’s 24-hour antics. And as it turns out, the tit-for-tat battle of wills and pranks that ensues might be the season’s funniest comedy.

Director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) is back in an R-rated groove — after co-writing two Muppets movies — and Neighbors has the polish and personnel of a Judd Apatow joint (though the Knocked Up filmmaker is not involved). There’s Rogen, playing a new dad who can’t help but look longingly at the fun going on next door. There’s Dave Franco and McLovin himself, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, playing oddly-talented members of the fraternity. And there’s the delightfully surprising Byrne, who plays a young mother struggling with her new role at home with a baby. In fact, though she’s surrounded by larger comic personae, Byrne — who proved she could do comedy in 2011′s Bridesmaids – marks her own territory. “Speaking in her native Aussie twang, Byrne shows that she’s a deadpan comic ace,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty. “And thanks to her chemistry with Rogen, Neighbors proves that just because you grow up doesn’t mean you have to be a grown-up.”

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

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