This week at the movies, we’ve got an anime hero (Astro Boy, with voice work from Kristen Bell and Nicolas Cage), a vampire war (Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant , starring Chris Massoglia and John C. Reilly), an aviation pioneer (Amelia, starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere), and gore galore (Saw VI, starring Costas Mandylor and Mark Rolston). What do the critics have to say?
Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy is one of anime’s most iconic and venerable characters. Now he’s getting the big-screen CGI treatment, and the result, critics say, is an energetic but derivative affair. In the film, Astro Boy is a young robot with super powers who learns, slowly but surely, what it means to be human; he also must protect his new-found friends from danger. The pundits say Astro Boy is a lively and good-looking jaunt, but it also cribs from such legendary kiddie fare as Pinocchio and Wall-E without making a distinctive stamp of its own. (Check out voice actress Kristen Bell’s Five Favorite Films here.)
Vampires are all the rage these days, so it makes sense that the 12-volume Cirque du Freak book series would be adapted for the silver screen. However, with The Vampire’s Assistant, critics aren’t exactly hailing the birth of a franchise. Chris Massoglia stars as a young man who mistakenly ends a truce in a 200-year-old vampire war; becoming a half-vampire means “dying” to his friends and family and plunging into the bloodsucking world. The pundits say The Vampire’s Assistant is overstuffed and scattershot, uneasily mixing scares and laughs while leaving its characters underdeveloped.
As an adventurer, author, and proto-feminist icon, Amelia Earhart maintains a powerful grip on the public’s imagination. And Amelia has all the trappings of an award-worthy biopic: it stars Oscar winner Hilary Swank and was directed by the critically acclaimed Mira Nair. Unfortunately, the critics say the film is decidedly earthbound. The film follows Earhart from her early aviation triumphs to her 1937 disappearance over the Pacific Ocean — and explores her fame and interpersonal relationships as well. The pundits say Amelia takes these compelling raw materials and does little with them, conventionally ticking off Earhart’s accomplishments without exploring the soul of the woman.
As with most of the previous entries in the gorehound-fave Saw series, Saw VI has not been screened for critics prior to its release. This latest installment finds Detective Hoffman continuing Jigsaw’s legacy of mayhem after framing some poor chump in Saw V. (And don’t forget to check out See Saw With Alex, in which RT’s own Alex Vo watches all the Saw movies in order.
Also opening this week in limited release:
Finally, props to lancerbird13 and King Kubrick for coming the closest to guessing The Stepfather‘s 13 percent Tomatometer.