This week lighting up your local theaters, we have a little girl lost somewhere between reality and fantasy ("Pan’s Labyrinth," starring Ivana Baquero), the royal lady herself ("The Queen," starring Helen Mirren), a charming and murderous dictator ("The Last King of Scotland," with Forest Whitaker), and a hitchhiker with a sinister destination in mind ("The Hitcher," starring Sean Bean and Sophia Bush). What are the critics saying?
"Pan’s Labyrinth" is "Alice in Wonderland" for grown-ups, with the horrors of both reality and fantasy blended together into an extraordinary, spellbinding fable. Told through the eyes of a little girl whose imaginary world is inhabited by nightmarish creatures, "Pan’s Labyrinth" is a visually imaginative and timeless, allegorical take on the fears we all face. At 97 percent, this is one "Labyrinth" to lose yourself in.
Full of wit, humor, and pathos, Stephen Frears‘s "The Queen" is a moving portrait of the British royals during the period after Princess Diana’s death features not one but two remarkable performances, that of Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II and Michael Sheen as the newly-ordained Prime Minister Tony Blair. They embody their characters and lay bare the motivations behind these prominent people, giving viewers a glimpse into the inner workings of the British monarchy. With 98 percent on the Tomatometer, critics are hailing "long live ‘The Queen.’"
For people who didn’t know anything about "The Last King of Scotland" beforehand, the movie could’ve been about anything (Royalty? Death? The country where The Jesus and Mary Chain come from?) Now, thanks to unremitting awards buzz and Forest Whitaker‘s esteemed performance, everybody knows it’s actually a blunt and brutal political thriller. Whitaker recently picked up the Golden Globe for his role as real-life megalomaniac dictator Idi Amin. At 90 percent on the Tomatometer, critics are also exclaiming "long live the ‘King.’" We can picture imaginative theater owners doing a double feature with this and "The Queen" for the weekend.
Like good parents, horror flicks are always reminding us what not to do (never skinny dip at night, never go upstairs, and, for the love of Pete, never assume it’s your friend that’s playing the practical joke). "The Hitcher" is no different. It stars Sean Bean as a rather surly hitchhiker who terrorizes some hapless teenagers, driving home the movie’s central moral: never pick up strangers. "The Hitcher" is this week’s single new wide release. And, guess what — it’s not being screened for critics. You know the drill: guess that Tomatometer.
Also opening this week in limited release: "Alone With Her," a teenage stalker drama, is at 56 percent; "The Italian," the drama of a boy trying to find his mother, is at 93 percent; "The GoodTimesKid," a comedy reportedly recorded on stolen film, is at 60 percent; and "Mafioso," an obscure 1962 flick playing again in America 45 years later, is at 91 percent.