This week at the movies, we’ve got snoops ("Disturbia," starring Shia LaBeouf), temps ("Perfect Stranger," starring Halle Berry and Bruce Willis), Mooninites ("Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters"), and frauds ("The Hoax," starring Richard Gere). What do the critics have to say?
With a plot involving a bored house-arrested teenager, binoculars, and a neighbor who may be a murderer, it’s hard not to imagine "Disturbia" as "Rear Window" for the YouTube generation. Shia LaBeouf plays the James Stewart role as a kid trying to figure out whether he’s witnessing the work of a serial killer — or if it’s just his imagination. Though critics say "Disturbia" rips off Hitchcock, some still praise the film’s tense atmospherics; others call it too predictable, with the exception of one problematic twist late in the game. However, most agree that star Shia LaBeouf is evolving into an engaging screen presence. At 56 percent on the Tomatometer, keep your expectations in check and "Disturbia" may be worth a peep.
Frankly, we’re getting a little worried about Halle Berry. Ever since she took home the Oscar for "Monster’s Ball," she hasn’t been able to steer clear of mediocre movies. The latest example: "Perfect Stranger," a twisty whodunit that is unlikely to redeem her in the eyes of the scribes. Berry stars as an investigative reporter looking into the murder of a friend; signs seem to point to a powerful, sketchy ad exec (played by Bruce Willis), so she goes undercover as a temp in his firm. There’s nothing wrong with sexy potboilers, but the critics say "Perfect Stranger" is way too convoluted and filled with lame red herrings to work. At 16 percent on the Tomatometer, you may want to avoid this "Stranger."
Another month, another swords-and-decapitations-filled epic. "Pathfinder" stars Karl Urban as Ghost, an orphaned Viking boy raised by Native Americans, destined to fight off his ancestors when they come back to pillage pre-Columbus America. Despite a few rousing action sequences, critics are finding lots to take issue with in "Pathfinder" including a non-existent plot, silly dialogue, a sophomoric obsession with gory violence, and even the cinematography, which bathes everything in a washed-out blue. This "Pathfinder" is lost in the woods with a 33 percent Tomatometer.
If you’re a fan of Adult Swim’s "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," critics say you’ll probably dig its big screen adaptation, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters." If you’re not initiated into the world of those wacky anthropomorphic fast food items Meatwad, Frylock, and Master Shake, however, you’re likely to be left cold. Absurdist antics are the order of the day as our heroes seek out a piece of antiquated gym equipment called the Insanoflex. Long story short, critics say if you’re up for wacky non-sequiturs and are untroubled by such pesky cinematic conventions as narrative, "ATHFCMFFT" is as tasty as a Happy Meal. If not, politely ignore the film’s 68 percent Tomatometer.
When it comes to literary scandal, James Frey and Stephen Glass ain’t got nothing on Clifford Irving, whose phony "autobiography" of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes was a sensation — until Hughes emerged to dispute it. Irving appeared as himself in Orson Welles’ endlessly inventive final film "F for Fake," and now Lasse Hallström has made "The Hoax," a fictional account of the affair that critics say features Richard Gere’s best performance in years. The pundits say Hallström’s direction is deft enough to make the film work as a comedy, a thriller, and an empathetic character study to boot. At 85 percent, this "Hoax" is no joke. In fact, it’s Certified Fresh.
Add two more flicks to ever-growing list of movies hidden from critics. "Redline," starring Angus MacFadyen and Eddie Griffin, is set in the world of illegal drag racing, while "Slow Burn" stars Ray Liotta and LL Cool J in a complex murder mystery. Guess those Tomatometers, kids.
Also opening this week in limited release: "Red Road," a tense, Hitchcockian meditation on grief, is at 88 percent; the documentary "Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis," about the underground artist, is at 88 percent; "Year of the Dog," a Sundance-approved comedy about the love of man’s best friend starring Molly Shannon, is at 86 percent; the Slamdance-accepted "Rock the Bells," a doc about efforts to stage a Wu-Tang reunion, is at 86 percent; "Private Fears in Public Places," a melodrama about relationships by legendary French director Alain Resnais, is at 82 percent; "Everything’s Gone Green," the tale of a slacker written by Gen-X writer Douglas Coupland, is at 67 percent; and "Lonely Hearts," a noir starring John Travolta, Salma Hayek, and Jared Leto, is at 43 percent.