This week at the movies, we’ve got a cool cop (Jack Reacher, starring Tom Cruise and Rosamund Pike); harried marrieds (This is 40, starring Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann); mother-son bonding (The Guilt Trip, starring Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen); and a fanciful circus (the performance film Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D). What do the critics have to say?
Sometimes a relatively generic story can be redeemed by a confident central performance. Case in point: Jack Reacher, which critics say is a solid crime thriller that greatly benefits from Tom Cruise’s movie star charisma. Cruise stars as the title character, a former Army M.P. who’s called in to investigate a mass shooting, and soon discovers that he’s up against a dangerous foe. The pundits say Jack Reacher doesn’t lack for clichés, it’s a competent and tense piece of work, and Cruise is cool and compelling. (Check out this week’s 24 Frames for a pictorial overview of Cruise’s career.)
Judd Apatow‘s films frequently balance laughs and pathos with a deft hand, and while critics say This Is 40 is uneven, it’s thought-provoking and occasionally hilarious. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their roles from Knocked Up, playing an affluent married couple dealing with the stresses of parenthood, financial insecurity, familial relations, and hard-to-break habits. The pundits say This Is 40 is overlong and sometimes aimless, but it’s buoyed by a terrific cast, a perceptive script, and some very funny moments.
Barbra Streisand is so rarely in films these days that her starring role in The Guilt Trip should be cause for excitement. Unfortunately, the critics say that while she and Seth Rogen share an easy chemistry, it’s largely wasted in a formulaic plot. Rogen stars as an inventor who plans to drive cross-country to pitch his newest product. He invites his overbearing mom along in an attempt to fix her up with an old boyfriend in San Francisco. The pundits say The Guilt Trip is undeniably sweet, and the leads are in fine form, but there are absolutely no surprises to be found in the script.
If those whimsical acrobats from Cirque Du Soleil aren’t making a tour stop in your town, Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away is a decent overview; critics say this 3D extravaganza offers thrilling evidence of the troupe’s skills, even if it doesn’t quite match the experience of seeing them live. Producer James Cameron and director Andrew Adamson utilize a minimal narrative — a girl visits a circus and is transported into Cirque Du Soleil’s dreamworld — as an excuse to create a best-of package of the company’s various stage shows. The pundits say Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away features plenty of eye-popping imagery, but it may not win over those who don’t already love the group.
With Monsters University hitting theaters next year, now is as good a time as any to revisit the world of Monsters, Inc. which is getting the rerelease treatment this week in glorious 3D. This tale of a pair of monsters who can’t seem to frighten one tenacious little girl is one of Pixar’s classics; like most of the studio’s output, it’s Certified Fresh.
Kathryn Bigelow‘s Zero Dark Thirty, starring Jessica Chastain in a thriller about the CIA’s hunt for Osama Bin Laden, is Certified Fresh at 94 percent.
Barbara, a Cold War thriller about an East German doctor whose escape plan to the West is complicated by a man she doesn’t fully trust, is at 94 percent.
Michael Haneke‘s Amour, starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva in a drama about a man tending to his dying wife, is Certified Fresh at 92 percent.
The Impossible, starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor in a thriller about a vacationing family caught in the path of a tsunami, is Certified Fresh at 82 percent.
Not Fade Away, a coming-of-age drama about a 1960s teenage garage band from Sopranos creator David Chase, is at 77 percent.
On the Road, starring Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund in an adaptation of Jack Kerouc’s classic Beat Generation novel, is at 46 percent (check out our interview with Hedlund here).