This week at the movies, we’ve got foolhardy travelers (Dumb and Dumber To, starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels) and a lovelorn pop star (Beyond the Lights, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker). What do the critics have to say?
Twenty years ago, Dumb and Dumber solidified Jim Carrey’s reign as the king of lowbrow comedy, and established directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly as the maestros of heartfelt gross-out humor. Unfortunately, critics say that while Harry and Lloyd can still generate an occasional dumb laugh, Dumb and Dumber To is more crass than funny, and too content to recycle laughs from its superior predecessor. This time out, Harry (Jeff Daniels) needs a kidney transplant, so he recruits Lloyd (Carrey) for a road trip to find a young woman that might be his daughter in the hope that she’s cool with donating a kidney). The pundits say Dumb and Dumber To gets a lot of mileage out of the charisma of its stars, but it simply lacks the heart and freshness of the original. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Daniels’ best-reviewed films.)
“Melodramatic” has become something of a dirty word these days, but there’s nothing wrong with a little melodrama if it’s done well. Take Beyond the Lights, for example: critics say there’s nothing original about this romantic drama, but thanks to sharp direction from Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Gina Prince-Bythewood and an attractive, likeable cast, it’s a top-notch crowd-pleaser. Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as a rising pop star who’s rapidly becoming disenchanted with fame. She falls hard for Kaz (Nate Parker), an off-duty police officer, after he helps her out of a jam. Will true love conquer all? The pundits say Beyond the Lights is so well-executed that it mostly transcends its cliches, and it ends up having a thing or two to say about the toll that fame takes on women. (Watch our interviews with Mbatha-Raw and Parker here.)
With an energetic new arc and deeper character development, The Newsroom (Certified Fresh at 82 percent) finds itself rejuvenated in its third season — even if it still occasionally serves as a soapbox for creator Aaron Sorkin.
Substantially similar to its predecessor in all the best ways, critics say this new season of The Comeback (Certified Fresh at 83 percent) thrives on Lisa Kudrow’s starring performance as Valerie Cherish.
Foxcatcher, starring Channing Tatum and Steve Carell in a drama about an Olympic wrestling hopeful who falls under the influence of a questionable patron, is Certified Fresh at 93 percent.
Thou Wast Mild and Lovely, a drama about wild passions on a Kentucky farm, is at 83 percent.
Bad Turn Worse, a drama about a trio of Texas teens whose going-away celebration is financed by stolen cash, is at 82 percent.
The Homesman, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank in a Western about a former schoolteacher who recruits a man with a past to help her establish a sanctuary for troubled women, is at 78 percent.
Starry Eyes, a sci-fi horror film about an actress who is unwittingly enlisted by a sinister organization, is at 78 percent.
Jon Stewart‘s Rosewater, starring Gael García Bernal in a based-on-true-events drama about a Newsweek reporter accused of espionage while on assignment in Iran, is at 73 percent.
Miss Meadows, starring Katie Holmes in a drama about an elementary school teacher who moonlights as a vigilante, is at 50 percent.
Wolves, an action/horror hybrid about a teen werewolf who discovers an unsettled community of wolf-people, is at 33 percent.