This week at the movies, we’ve got clairvoyants ("Next," with Nicolas Cage and Julianne Moore), cons ("The Condemned," starring Steve Austin and Vinnie Jones), teen spirits ("The Invisible," starring Justin Chatwin), and breakdancers ("Kickin’ It Old Skool," starring Jamie Kennedy and Bobby Lee). Are the critics feeling it this week?
Another year, another slickly-produced Philip K. Dick adaptation. In "Next," Nicolas Cage stars as a Cassandra-like magician who can see terrible things happening two minutes in the future. (Sorta like "Memento," but the other way around. Or something.) The movie also features Julianne Moore as an FBI agent on his trail attempting to thwart a terrorist plot, and Jessica Biel as the love interest. The critics say the biggest problem with "Next" is that it fails to provide a consistent framework for Cage’s character’s remarkable powers. In addition, it lacks the nuance of source writer Dick’s text and features mediocre performances. At 33 percent on the Tomatometer, you may not want this one to be "Next" on you’re viewing schedule.
In the wrestling ring, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin made for a compelling antihero. In "The Condemned," his first starring vehicle? Not so much, but don’t entirely blame the noted purveyor of the stone cold stunner. Austin stars as a death-row inmate sent to a remote island, where he and nine other prisoners must duke it out on live television for the ultimate prize: freedom. Critics say this retread of "The Most Dangerous Game" and "The Running Man" is undone by its shopworn premise and its message, which is that vicarious, voyeuristic violence is bad (as the film itself traffics in vicarious, voyeuristic violence). At 12 percent on the Tomatometer, this one’s been "Condemned," all right.
Critics have been kept in the dark with regard to David S. Goyer’s latest, "The Invisible." This tale of a teenager trapped between the living and the dead wasn’t screened for the scribes. In addition, the pundits haven’t been allowed to bust a move with "Kickin’ It Old Skool," the Rip Van Winkle-inspired tale of a breakdancer (Jamie Kennedy) who gets his poppin’ and lockin’ crew together after a 20-year repose. Take a temporary break from listening to Run DMC and guess those Tomatometers.
Also opening this week in limited release: "Triad Election," Johnny To’s star-studded Hong Kong gangster flick, is at 88 percent on the Tomatometer; "Diggers," a slice-of-life tale of clam diggers in Maine starring Paul Rudd and Lauren Ambrose, is at 86 percent; "The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez," a doc about the first soldier killed in Iraq, is at 83 percent; the French thriller "Poison Friends" is at 82 percent; "Snow Cake," a drama about the aftermath of a fatal accident starring Sigourney Weaver and Carrie-Anne Moss, is at 68 percent; "Zoo," an impressionistic doc about bestiality, is at 53 percent; and the Raymond Carver adaptation "Jindabyne," starring Laura Linney and Gabriel Byrne, is at 56 percent.
Films Not Screened for Critics in 2007 (Best To Worst Tomatometer Score):
28% — Ghost Rider
24% — The Abandoned
21% — The Hitcher
20% — Dead Silence
16% — Primeval
14% — The Messengers
13% — The Hills Have Eyes 2
11% — Slow Burn
10% — Blood and Chocolate
3% — Epic Movie
0% — Redline