This week’s wide releases contain tales of existential, angst-ridden meteorologists ("The Weather Man"), psychopaths in sequels ("Saw II"), swashbuckling spouses ("The Legend of Zorro"), and the trials and tribulations of love ("Prime"). Which of these films will get good marks from the critics?
Zorro is back! And this time he’s facing his biggest challenge yet…. domestic issues! Yes, one of the silver screen’s favorite heroes is married with child in "The Legend of Zorro," starring Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. "Legend" is an attempt to mix swashbuckling with family fare, both onscreen and off, but the results are mixed at best, critics say, and too campy and — gasp! — dull at worst. At 46 percent on the Tomatometer, this "Zorro" isn’t leaving much of a mark. And it’s definitely a cut below its predecessor, "The Mask of Zorro," which galloped off with an 86 percent.
The original "Saw" didn’t exactly score with critics (45 percent), but its perverse, squirm-inducing catch-22s turned it into an instant cult favorite. Now comes "Saw II," which also features the antics of Jigsaw, but ups the stakes with more potential victims. While some scribes say "Saw II" succeeds on its own grisly terms, others say it’s so repulsive that it disgusts more than it thrills. At 50 percent, this is a rusty "Saw" that may still cut, depending on your taste.
Nicolas Cage‘s character in "The Weather Man" seems to be drawn from a lyric in "Stormy Weather:" "Life is bare/ Gloom and misery everywhere/ Stormy weather/ Just can’t get my poor old self together." That’s also an apt summary of what the critics are saying about the film. Cage stars as a Chicago TV meteorologist who is unhappy with both his professional and family life. And while some critics have praised the film for its (very) dry, dark humor, others say it’s too much of a slog, too dark to really resonate. At 57 percent on the Tomatometer, this one’s mostly cloudy.
A romance with an age gap, set in Manhattan, with its protagonists in therapy… is "Annie Hall" back in theaters? Nope, it’s "Prime," starring Uma Thurman, Meryl Streep, and Bryan Greenberg. The scribes say this May-December rom-com has its moments, but lacks a strong forward drive. At 43 percent on the Tomatometer, this one might not be ready for "Prime" time.
Recent Swashbuckling Films:
80% — Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
86% — The Mask of Zorro (1998)
37% — The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)
26% — The Three Musketeers (1993)
100% — The Princess Bride (1987)